A Model for Serving God

Yael Eckstein  |  February 2, 2023

Drawing of a man with his hands held up to the sky about to make an offering.

Slaughter it, take some of its blood and put it on the lobes of the right ears of Aaron and his sons, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet. Then splash blood against the sides of the altar. — Exodus 29:20

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.

During the inauguration ceremony of the original Temple priests, kohanim in Hebrew, Aaron and his sons, they were commanded to sacrifice a ram and place its blood on their ear, thumb, and toe. What is the meaning of this unusual ritual?

Jewish tradition explains that the ear symbolizes everything that we have learned. The thumb represents our actions based on what we’ve learned. The toe represents where we are going in the future.

As the priests prepared themselves for service, they had to remember three things: the past, present, and future. Only in that context would they be able to fully serve God.

This unusual ritual dedicating the priests offers us as a model for serving God today.

A Model for Serving God

The ear: First, we must learn from those who came before us, from history, from what God has revealed in the past. We must see ourselves as a link in a chain going all the way back to the beginning. This gives meaning to our choices and actions in the present.

When we see our lives in the context of the legacy we have inherited from earlier generations, we see the responsibility we have to continue their legacy. How much more meaningful is our service when it’s not just about us, but includes generations before us!

The thumb: Second, when we serve God, we must embrace the value of the present. The most important day is always today. The most important people at any moment are those who stand before you. And the most important task is the one we face right now. We believe that whatever God has placed before us is what we are called to do.

The toe: Finally, we must always be aware that what we do leads to where we are going. What might we do differently if we considered the consequences of our actions? We might be extra careful to avoid sin when we consider how it may harm others, including ourselves, down the line. Or we might be more enthusiastic about doing good deeds when we appreciate their long-term impact.

As servants of God, we must always consider the lasting results of our actions — our legacy — not only in the near term, but for eternity.

Your Turn:

Take a moment to consider where you have come from, where you are going, and where you are right now. With that perspective, ask yourself: How can I best serve God today?