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Starting the New Year the Right Way

Yael Eckstein in front of Western Wall and Jerusalem

January 8, 2019

Welcome to 2019!

On January 1st we all received 365 opportunities to make this year the best year yet. The days and months ahead are filled with unlimited potential. But I want to tell you, friends, it is these first days that have the most potential to affect our year.

Judaism has a saying: “Our first thoughts decide the end results.” This means that it’s the thoughts we have at the beginning of something — a new year, a new job, a new relationship — that have the greatest impact on how that new thing will turn out.

When we think thoughts, it’s like we are planting seeds. What we sow is what we will grow, and ultimately what we will reap. I know this is true because I have experienced it firsthand.

When I was a teenager, I came to visit Israel. I remember loving everything about it. I loved seeing the places where the stories I had learned about in the Bible actually happened. I was amazed at the diversity — Jews from Ethiopia, Iran, Russia — a testimony to the prophecies in the Bible about the ingathering of the exiles. I noticed the little things — like how the grandmothers would recite Psalms while on buses, how the smallest kids spoke fluent Hebrew — the language of the Bible, and how even the cashiers wished me “Shabbat Shalom” on Fridays right before the Sabbath began.

For the first time in my life I felt like I was truly in the place where I belonged. I decided that one day I would live in Israel with my people in my homeland.

But then life went on.

I went back to America and back to school. I went to college, got married, and settled into my own home. The thought of living in Israel didn’t enter my mind. Everything in my life was perfect and I wasn’t looking to change anything.

Then one day, while I was praying and reciting the words “God, please rebuild Jerusalem, the Holy City, quickly, in our days,” I remembered Jerusalem. I had prayed this prayer thousands of times, but on that particular day, I had a flash of inspiration that made me remember how I had once longed to live in Israel. I remembered how I felt there. I remembered how hard it was to leave my homeland. Suddenly, the thoughts and feelings I had when I was a teenager came back to me. Those thoughts gave me the motivation to leave everything I was familiar with behind, just like Abraham in the Bible, and fulfill my dream of moving to Israel.

The seed that I planted years earlier had sprouted. The thought that I initially had about living in the Holy Land became my reality.

If my thoughts had been different — if my trip to Israel had led me to think that I could never live here, never leave the country of my birth, the language I knew, the culture I was familiar with — I’m certain that I would not be living here today.

If you are like most people, you probably made some New Year’s resolutions. And like most people, you probably won’t stick to them all the time for the entire year. But whatever it is that you have the intention to do this year, I promise you it will stay with you. You may fall, but you will get up again and eventually reach your goal. Because “our first thoughts decide the end results.”

I want to bless us all, that in the coming days and weeks we think good thoughts, have pure intentions, and plant holy seeds. May God grant us the wisdom, strength, and resources to make even our most ambitious thoughts come to fruition, quickly, in our days.

In Loving Memory of Rabbi Yecheil Eckstein 1951-2019

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