A Legacy of Faith
Yael Eckstein | February 8, 2023
He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children. —Psalm 78:5-6
This month marks the fourth anniversary of the passing of my father, Fellowship Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. In his honor, I offer you a selection of devotions on the spiritual importance of legacy and leadership.
When each of my siblings and I reached the time in our lives when we moved out and went to college, my father, Fellowship Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, of blessed memory, made a point of having a brief conversation with us.
And it’s one you probably wouldn’t have imagined. It wasn’t about buckling down and getting good grades. It wasn’t about making sure to stay safe away from home. It was about our past.
His message was short, simple, and I’ll never forget it. He wanted each of us to remember what our great-grandparents went through to come to the United States, to give to their son — his father, my grandfather — the opportunities of a good education.
“But,” he went on, “my grandparents’ greatest hope and prayer for their son was that he remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy, because that is the key to Jewish life and survival.”
A Legacy of Faith
Maybe it was because of the timing, but even many years later, this brief five-minute conversation still inspires me to honor God and keep the Sabbath holy in every way I can. But my father’s message wasn’t about theological arguments to keep the faith. It was about honoring the legacy of faith passed down through the centuries.
The psalmist recognized the importance of that legacy to God when he wrote, “He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.”
Telling our children about all that God has done for us in the past, going back generations, is a mandate directly from the Bible. When we share our faith journey with our children and tell them the stories of God’s faithfulness to us through the years, we give our children a precious gift that will strengthen their identities as people of faith.
Picking the right church, synagogue, and educational environment are critically important. But when we pass along the legacy of faith through our daily conversations with our children, through our actions and our deeds, we have a much greater impact.
Children build their identities by watching their parents. What their parents prioritize, they will intuitively see as important in their own lives as well. Let’s be intentional about how we communicate faith to the next generation.
Learn more about the Jewish tradition of passing on our faith through the observance of the yearly holidays and rituals in my book, Generation to Generation.