Making Beautiful Lives

Yael Eckstein  |  December 12, 2021

Itzhak Perlman in a suit playing the violin.

It is good to praise the LORD
    and make music to your name, O Most High,
proclaiming your love in the morning
    and your faithfulness at night,
to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
    and the melody of the harp
. — Psalm 92:1-3

In honor of my father, Fellowship Founder 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.

A story is told about the Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman who was giving a performance one night in New York City. Perlman had suffered from polio as a child, and he wore large heavy braces on both his legs and used crutches to get around. On that night, the audience cheered as Perlman first appeared on stage and then sat quietly as Perlman slowly made his way to center stage. As he sat down and picked up his violin, the audience cheered again. Perlman gave the signal, and the orchestra began to play.

However, just a few bars in, one of his violin strings snapped with the sound of a gunshot. There was silence in the hall as everyone expected the performance to stop. Yet, much to everyone’s surprise, Perlman signaled for the conductor to continue where they had left off. The performance continued, and Perlman made up for the missing string by finding some of the notes on the three remaining strings. Elsewhere, he rearranged the music in his head and improvised. Perlman played with passion and amazing skill.

When the music came to an end, the audience sat stunned for a moment, appreciating the magnitude of what they had just witnessed. Then they rose to their feet and cheered wildly. Perlman lifted his bow to signal for silence. Then he said, “You know, it is the artist’s task to make beautiful music with what you have left.”

Making Beautiful Lives

Perlman’s statement was true about the performance he gave that night, and it rang true about the life he had made in spite of the disease that had left him disabled. And the truth is that it is true for us all — we are to make beautiful lives with what we have been given.

In Psalm 92 we read, “It is good to praise the LORD… to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.” The literal translation of the original Hebrew for verse 3 is, “Upon the ten, upon the instrument ‘neival,’ and with singing accompanied by a harp.” Based on this translation, the Jewish sages teach an alternate meaning to this verse: “Upon us is the Ten Commandments, upon us is to die for God (neival can also mean corpse) if necessary, and upon us is to be a harp through which God’s praises are expressed.”

Each of us can be the instrument that sings God praises. When we take the life we have and make something beautiful out of it, we declare to all that God is great. Know today that whatever is “broken” in your life only makes your living a glorious life ever more powerful.

Let us commit ourselves to doing what we can to making beautiful lives out of what we have, bringing glory to God’s name.

Your Turn:

Don’t forget to tune into my podcast, Nourish Your Biblical Roots, which airs today with a new episode!

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