The fear of the LORD is pure,
The decrees of the LORD are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb. — Psalm 19:9–10
This week Jews in Israel and around the world will mark Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, on May 2, honoring the six million Jews murdered at the hands of Nazi Germany. Throughout this week, I will share reflections from my father, the late Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, on the importance for Christians and Jews to never forget and to continue the fight against anti-Semitism and persecution wherever it exists. — Yael Eckstein, Fellowship President,
In a post-Holocaust world, we know what the victims of the Holocaust did not: That they were headed toward destruction even when they least expected it. For us, their destiny was clear. But they had no idea what was ahead of them. They lived just as we do – thinking that life would always be as it is right now.
From beyond the grave, the voice of Rabbi Klonimus Kalman Shapira reaches out. Although the famed rabbi perished in the Holocaust, many of his writings have been found in recent times. His sermons and books give us amazing insight into the mindset of the Jews during the Holocaust, but perhaps even more hauntingly, of how they thought and lived before the horrors manifested in their lives.
Here is an excerpt from one such sermon. The rabbi said, “Intimate Father . . . You are my life’s treasure. Your Presence is the wealth of my being; there is nothing of value other than You. How poor is the rich man who lives without You, despite all his earthly riches!” The rabbi’s words echoed King David in Psalm 19 who wrote: “The decrees of the LORD . . . are more precious than gold . . . they are sweeter than honey.” The true treasure in life is not what most people think it is; the most valuable treasure of all is God and His Word.
The rabbi continued, “Why do you people chase empty treasures? Why do you strive to amass fortunes of earthly value? . . . How can you be so foolish as to live in the castles in the air?” Chillingly, the rabbi said the following words to those who did not know that their time was near: “What a shock to your souls and what agony that first step into the beyond which awaits you after death will be . . . How horrified you will be! For pieces of metal and paper money, for these I have sacrificed my life?”
These powerful words should cause us all to pause and consider what we truly value in life. Do we put our time and effort into amassing true wealth by doing all the good deeds that we can possibly do and growing as close to God as we possibly can? Or are we chasing “metal and paper money” and building castles in the clouds?
Let’s honor the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust by living meaningful and purposeful lives, instead of wasting them away in pursuit of things that don’t really matter. Let us never forget what is truly valuable in life. May we always be nourished by God’s Word that is “sweeter than honey” and “more precious than gold.”