Build and Rebuild

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein  |  November 4, 2015

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Sow your seed in the morning,
and at evening let your hands not be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
whether this or that,
or whether both will do equally well.
Ecclesiastes 11:6

Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam was one of the youngest and most dynamic rabbis in 20th-century Romania. He had thousands of followers who crowded study halls to hear his lectures. Rabbi Halberstam also had a beloved wife and 11 children. He had accomplished so much in his life, and it was only the beginning.

However, World War II would change all that. Rabbi Halberstam lost his wife, all 11 children, and most of his students in the hellish fires of the Holocaust. Just about everything was taken from him – all that he had put his life’s work into was gone. At that point, he could have given up on life. He could have lived out the rest of his life in quiet solitude. But the faithful rabbi chose to rebuild instead. He re-established Jewish communities in the United States and then in Israel. Once again, he taught and regained thousands of followers. He remarried and had seven more children.

It took tremendous courage to rebuild after such destruction, but it’s even harder to live out life in the shadow of tragedy.

In the book of Ecclesiastes we read, “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle . . .” The Jewish sages explain that sowing seeds in the morning means building our lives when we are young. We build a family, a career, a community, and all other aspects of life that we hope will shape a bright future. However, sometimes what we build gets destroyed. Perhaps it’s a marriage that doesn’t work out, or a large financial loss beyond our control, or a career path that doesn’t suit us later down the line.

Many elements can contribute to the utter destruction of something that we have invested our lives in creating. However, there are only two decisions that we can make when faced with such destruction we can cower in a corner and bemoan our loss, or we can choose to rebuild. This is the evening of our lives – it is dark and dismal. We may be older and tired. But precisely at this juncture, “let your hands not be idle.” Choose to rebuild!

According to Jewish tradition, Boaz from the book of Ruth had 30 sons and 30 daughters, all who died before he did. However, in his old age, Boaz married Ruth and started a family again. King David and all his descendants, including the messiah, were the result of this holy union.

Friends, let’s be inspired to rebuild when something we have worked for gets destroyed. Never give up no matter how old you are or how much you have lost. God can restore everything – we need only to have faith and build again.