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Shining Lights in a Dark World

Yael Eckstein lights Hanukkah menorah after Freedom Flight, December 2017

December 22, 2017

Hanukkah is the holiday of miracles, and indeed the miracles that I witnessed in Israel this year during the holiday were endless.

It started when I watched my four Israeli-born children light the menorah. As they partook in this ancient ceremony and recited the blessing – “thank you, God, for the miracles you have done for my forefathers long ago, and still today for me” – I truly felt God’s spirit resting in our home.

With a chill down my spine, I realized that our prophets saw these children thousands of years ago, when they spoke about the Jewish people coming home on the shoulders of the gentiles. It was my children that the prophets saw when they said that the word of God will never be lost from the hearts and lives of the Jewish people, and that one day we will return to our land.

For 2,000 years my people were exiled. Today, we are home.

Hanukkah is the only Jewish holiday we celebrate that actually took place in Israel, and whose message is more relevant today than ever. Hanukkah represents the ongoing fight of the Jewish people for our homeland, a fight that never lets the people of Israel forget that large nations have always tried to destroy the Jewish people’s spirit. This holiday of light reminds us that the only way we can overcome threats is with faith.

And that is exactly the message my husband and I raise our children on – that faith is larger than fear, love is stronger than hate, and light is ultimately more powerful than darkness.

Each night, as I watched with awe and pride as my children lit the menorah, I tried to find more ways to teach them the huge responsibility of bringing light into this dark world. I kept my eyes open for role models in our everyday life who can serve as a living example of what being a “warrior of godly light” is all about.  Amazingly, the examples I found were endless.

As my children jumped around a crowded indoor play area, I realized something happening that left me in tears. Hundreds of kids were jumping around on the trampolines and climbing on the climbing wall, but one area of the booked Gymboree was closed to the public. A special needs teenager was carefully walking along the ropes course, with two employees intently offering support and encouragement. For 45 long minutes, the employees gave her the space and confidence to finish the difficult course. When she did, she broke out into tears – as did I. Within seconds, the ropes course was open to the public and life continued as normal for everyone there. But not for me. After witnessing that modest act of kindness, I was changed.

As we lit the Hanukkah candles that night, I told my family about the selfless act of kindness these individuals and the business showed. “These are the real lights of our generation – people who are doing good deeds without seeking recognition or public appreciation,” I told them. “Don’t be fooled and think these are small, irrelevant deeds; they are changing the world just as much as what you see on the news. Just like a small candle can light up a big dark room, so, too, these small deeds light up the world.” Together, we sat and stared at the small Hanukkah candles burning and discussed how we can take small steps to be that light of God to others.

My daughter decided that she’ll invite over a girl from her class who doesn’t have many friends. My son said that he’ll go play soccer with a boy from the neighborhood who is going through a difficult time.

On the final morning of Hanukkah, I woke up early to go greet an On Wings of Eagles flight of over 200 new immigrants to Israel who arrived from Ukraine. As I watched a young boy kiss the ground, an elderly woman clutch the Star of David necklace around her neck and smile, and an elderly man laughing with joy as he held his baby granddaughter next to the Israeli flag, I thought about one thing: This fulfillment of biblical prophecy is made possible because of a lot of little “lights.”

Hundreds of thousands of Christians support The Fellowship in order to help the needy and fulfill prophecy – and together, they are literally changing the world. Each gift of $50, $75, $100 adds to the huge wave of support for people in need, and serves as an unmistakable reminder to the Jewish people that, for the first time in history, we are not alone.

I believe that Hanukkah and Christmas occurring right before the New Year is a gift from God. Just days before we have the opportunity to start anew and begin a fresh year, I hear God reminding us of a very deep and powerful message: Remember, My children, to carry the lessons of the holiday with you throughout the year. Spread a love for family, appreciation of friends, focus on faith, and help for the needy. Remember to always be My shining lights in this very dark world.

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