Doing the Unthinkable
Yael Eckstein | December 18, 2022
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD their God. — Psalm 146:5
In honor of my father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, of blessed memory, and his lifework helping Christians understand the Jewish roots of their faith, I offer you one of his devotional teachings from the beloved Psalms.
It is almost inconceivable to imagine that the tiny nation of Israel, exiled from their homeland over two millennia earlier and persecuted throughout history, could have survived and even thrived. Yet, the Jewish people have done just that, and many have attributed the Jews’ survival to proof that God, indeed, exists.
Jewish tradition teaches that Psalm 146 was written by King David with a particular time in history in mind. The psalm, which sings God’s praises and speaks of His ability to do the unthinkable — such as giving sight to the blind and setting prisoners free — was written for a time when the inconceivable would happen.
The children of Israel had been exiled from their land in the year 586 BCE. From all appearances, it looked like the end of the nation of Israel, and by all accounts, it should have been. No nation in human history had been exiled from their land and then returned to it. It was unthinkable!
But then the unthinkable happened, and a mere 70 years later, the Jews returned to Israel. It was such an unlikely event that obviously the hand of God was involved. It was for this occasion that this psalm was prophetically written.
Doing the Unthinkable
Looking at the times in which we find ourselves, we can suggest that this psalm is as applicable today as it was in Bible days. In 1945, the world had witnessed the most horrific genocide in its history. Among the 12 million killed in the Holocaust, six million Jews were sent to their death. Others who survived had been subjected to brutal conditions, humiliation, degradation, and cruelty — all in front of a world that did little to intervene until it was already too late.
Who could have imagined that three years later, following the end of World War II, there would be a state of Israel? As Jews were led like sheep to the slaughter, who could have guessed that one of the world’s greatest armies, the Israel Defense Forces, was in the making? Who could have believed that the unthinkable would happen and the Jewish people would return to their homeland for a second time?
Just as in the ancient times for which David had intended this psalm, so, too, are we living in miraculous times that could only be brought about by the hand of God. Indeed, the Jewish people are proof of God’s existence and evidence that our God is capable of wondrous things, of doing the unthinkable.
The Jewish sages teach that “It is forbidden to give in to despair.” For people of faith, giving up is never an option because miracles are always an option. The unthinkable is always possible.
As David wrote more than two millennia ago, “Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.” There is always hope because the God of Israel lives.