October 6, 2016
This past weekend, I welcomed in Rosh Hashanah, the Hebrew New Year of 5777, with deep prayer and introspection.
Unlike the Gregorian New Year, which is celebrated with wild parties, the Jewish New Year is observed with hours of singing special prayers and hearing the sound of the shofar – the ram’s horn – being blown. For two days on Rosh Hashanah – the day Jewish tradition tells us Adam and Eve were created – Jewish people around the world unite in praying to God for a sweet New Year.
The theme of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement, and the end of the High Holy Days) can be summed up in one word: LIFE.
In Hebrew, the word for life is “chai.” The name “Chaim” is one of the most popular Hebrew names, “L’chaim” (which means “to life”) is used during toasts, and donations in multiples of 18, the numerical value of the Hebrew letters which make up the word “chai,” are given as gifts on special occasions.
Why is the word “life” so foundational to the Hebrew language? Because people of faith cherish life. We cherish life because we cherish the Bible and God’s Word.
Our deepest prayer on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is to be written and sealed in the Book of Life for the coming year. And God tells us how to be worthy of this enormous blessing.
“Repentance, prayer, and charity overturn the negative decrees,” we recite over and over again in the High Holy Days prayers. It sounds easy, but as all of us know, true repentance is one of the hardest things in the world.
God has given us these days as a gift to change our ways and repent. On Rosh Hashanah we are written in the book of life or death, but on Yom Kippur that book is sealed. These days are our second chance to change all of the bad behavior of the previous year and transform it into repentance and life.
It’s during this very special time that The Fellowship is launching an exciting new initiative called 18 for Israel. It’s a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign to raise money for food, medicine, and shelter for needy orphans, elderly, and Holocaust survivors. Our goal is to raise enough money to help 180,000 Jewish people in need and enable them to start the New Year with hope, love, and life.
My father Rabbi Eckstein often teaches on the verse in Ecclesiastes that tell us “Two are better than one.” We can accomplish more together than anyone can alone. This is the foundation of 18 For Israel.
We all want to help Israel and her people.
We all want to partake in the biblical mandate to feed the hungry, shelter the poor, and clothe the naked – especially orphans and widows. But we can’t do it alone.
By going to 18forIsrael.Org you can start your own fundraising page, which you can invite your family and friends to join. Pray about it, set a monetary goal, and do everything you can to meet that goal. God will do the rest.
By participating in 18 for Israel, not only will you be helping Jewish people in need, but you will also have the chance to win a free trip to Israel where you will visit holy sites, see Fellowship projects, and meet me! Yay!
I have heard so many people telling me that they’re doing everything they can to help the people of Israel, and that they wish they could do more. If this has been your thought, this is your opportunity to put it into action.
During these days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, let’s stand together for LIFE.
And I pray that, as God has promised in Genesis 12:3, He will bless those who bless His children, Israel, and that we, along with our friends and loved ones, will be written into the Book of Life.
L’Chaim! To life!