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The Secret Weapon of Faith

Portrait of Yael Eckstein

October 2, 2014

Shalom,

With my baby on my lap and my two older children playing outside of the synagogue, this Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) I prayed with all of my heart for a peaceful world. And as Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) approaches, it is a peace that I am crying tears of longing for, and that I believe is completely possible.

I don’t live in a bubble or in denial. I am well aware of the millions of enemies lined up on Israel’s border, and the numerous powerful countries dedicated to my nation’s demise.

Yet I refuse to lose hope. I refuse to live in fear and anguish. And no matter how tumultuous the times might be, I refuse to raise the white flag of defeat.

I have a secret weapon that keeps me hopeful for better days to come. This weapon counters all of the violence in neighboring countries, and repels the hateful words of Israel’s enemies from entering my heart. It is what enabled me to be in Israel during the Second Intifada when my friends were being shot at and buses were being blown up. It is what keeps me here in Israel to raise my precious children, despite our having to run to bomb shelters as code red sirens blare.

My secret weapon is more powerful than an atomic bomb and stronger than any world leader.

My weapon is faith. It is hidden in a sacred spot where no one can touch it, harm it, or take it from me. It is deep within my heart, and I carry it with me everywhere I go.

Taking time during the Days of Awe to assess myself and my life, there is one moment from nine years ago that replays in my head.

I was a newlywed, praying in my small apartment in New Jersey, and thanking God for my amazing new husband, my loving parents, supportive sisters, and wonderful friends. Yet there was a deep emptiness within my heart that I couldn’t put my finger on. It was then that I read the words from my prayer book, “God, bring us back to Jerusalem, your holy city, speedily in our days, Amen.” I had read these words hundreds of times in my life, yet this time they had a personal message for me. “After hundreds of years of my ancestors praying these words through some of the toughest days of exile, and keeping their faith that one day they will come true, how can I choose not to go home to Jerusalem now?” I thought to myself, overwhelmed with tears.

Two weeks later my husband and I were on an airplane to Israel, and we haven’t looked back.

The amazing thing about faith is that if you listen to it and nurture it in your heart, it leads you to your destiny. My New Year’s resolution is to keep this faith alive in my heart and within my family.

Although it is often difficult to foster in this world of darkness and hate, it is clear to me that this weapon – this faith – is the greatest hope I have, and the only thing that cannot be taken from me. And I thank God every day for it, because without it, I would have nothing left to fight life’s battles with.

With blessings from the Holy Land,

Yael

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