A Legacy that Lives On

Yael Eckstein  |  February 7, 2023

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When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people. — Genesis 49:33

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.

What is life really about? What I mean by the question is, what does it mean to be alive? For so many people, the sole purpose of life is merely to remain alive. To live another day or year. But if we leave this world without having anything to show for our time on earth, did we really live?

The Jewish sages summed it up this way: “The righteous, even in death, are called “living”; the wicked, even in life, are called “dead” (Talmud).

The point the sages were making is that life is about growing and changing. It is giving and sharing. It is learning and teaching. When a person wastes away his or her days doing nothing meaningful, that person is not really living. But when a person lives an intentional and purposeful life, their legacy lives on forever.

Jewish tradition explains that those who are called righteous are still called “living,” even after they have died, whereas the living wicked are already called “deceased.”

A Legacy that Lives On

Now we can understand an even more mysterious quote from the Jewish sages of the Talmud: “Our father Jacob never died.”

Now, obviously this statement was not meant literally. After all, the Bible tells us clearly that Jacob died, “When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.”

Immediately after declaring that Jacob never died, the Talmud raises the problem that the Bible clearly states that he did, in fact, die. The sages’ answer is, “So long as his descendants are alive, he is still alive.”

What a powerful statement about legacy! What the sages were teaching us is that Jacob, the only one of the three patriarchs to have all of his offspring included in the nation of Israel, is still alive so long as the Jewish people continue to live out his legacy. And if you think about it, this actually makes sense.

Life is really about the impact that we have on the world. So long as the Jewish people continue to live and impact the world, Jacob’s impact continues. Jacob is still affecting the world through his children. He is very much alive and his legacy lives on!

Your Turn:

Instead of worrying about how long we will live, let’s focus on building a legacy that will live on after us. What can you do to ensure that your positive impact will continue far into the future?

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