A Life of Humility and Honor

Yael Eckstein  |  March 11, 2022

Yael Eckstein and her father Rabbi Eckstein at ancient ruins of Mt. Arbel in Israel

Humility is the fear of the LORD;
    its wages are riches and honor and life.
Proverbs 22:4

We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.

When my father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, of blessed memory, founded The Fellowship 38 years ago, he encountered a lot of adversity. He spent long days at the office working hard to turn his vision of building bridges between Christians and Jews into reality, even as many people told him he would never succeed.

My father also endured painful criticism from leaders in both faith communities who questioned his motives and his mission. Yet, I didn’t know any of this while I was growing up. When my father came home at night, he was simply “abba.” He left all the stress behind.

Years later, when The Fellowship began to thrive, my father earned the respect of rabbis, pastors, presidents, prime ministers, and all kinds of leaders. The Fellowship became well-known and my father was frequently recognized for his contributions. However, none of that honor and prestige affected his character. When he came home at night, he was still just “abba,” the same affectionate, fun-loving, and humble father I had always known.

A Life of Humility and Honor

Proverbs teaches, “Humility is the fear of the LORD; its wages are riches and honor and life.” The great German rabbi of the 19th century, Rabbi Samson R. Hirsch, once explained that humility is the outward expression of fear of the Lord, being in awe of the One Living God.

This describes my father perfectly. He lived a life of humility, and therefore, honor. He persisted in his work to found The Fellowship because he knew that such a partnership between Christians and Jews was right in the eyes of God. He was serving God, regardless of his critics.

In Pirke Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, the rabbis teach, “Who is a rich man? One who is satisfied with his lot.” When someone is motivated only by the desire to serve God, they are satisfied with God’s repayment of their efforts. A truly humble person understands that whatever they have is what God wants.

And when someone lives to serve and honor others, as my father did, eventually everyone sees it and honors them for it. To quote Rabbi Hirsch on this verse again, “Such a man, regardless of the length of his sojourn on earth, is truly living. When he has departed from this world, one must say of him: He was alive!”

Your Turn:

To learn more about my abba, Rabbi Eckstein, listen to this special Conversations with Yael, during which my Uncle Beryl Eckstein shares his memories of growing up with my father.