Daily Devotionals Daily Devotionals

Standing on Holy Ground

Yael Eckstein points at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in the distance


Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” — Exodus 3:5

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Shemot, which means which means “names,” from Exodus 1:1–6:1.

When I first began to work at The Fellowship, my father, Fellowship Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, took me to visit some of the recipients of our aid. The experience was painful for me. It was hard to see so much suffering and hardship. I asked my father if he thought that it would get easier for me to see such difficult scenes, but he responded that he hoped it never would. He explained that it is only when we are sincerely pained by the suffering of others that we are moved to do everything in our power to alleviate their suffering.

It’s a lesson I never forgot.

In this week’s Torah portion, we learn that the first thing God ever said to Moses was that he needed to remove his shoes because he was standing on holy ground. The Jewish sages explained that this directive carried a deeper message for the future leader of Israel than we might think at first glance.

Shoes provide a cushion between the hard ground and our vulnerable feet. They give us protection against elements like snow, rain, rocks, or thorns. With the right pair of shoes, we can walk anywhere without feeling discomfort. With shoes on our feet, we are immune to pain and discomfort.

Doing God’s Holy Work

However, on that fateful day, God wanted Moses to be uncomfortable because he was standing on holy ground. God wanted Moses to feel every rock, pebble, and grain of sand. While we usually protect our feet from feeling anything, our feet are actually an extremely sensitive part of the body. And at that moment, God wanted Moses to be extremely sensitive.

Moses was about to become the leader of the Israelites. Taking care of God’s people is holy work and indeed, Moses’s new position placed him on holy ground. God wanted Moses to understand from the very beginning that in order to do God’s holy work, Moses needed to remain sensitive to the pain and needs of God’s children.

Insensitivity is a trap that we can all fall into. It is hard to sympathize with the hungry if your stomach is always full or to feel for the homeless when we have warm homes to come home to. But if we want to be a part of God’ holy work, we must remain acutely sensitive to the needs of His children — and then do our best to meet them.

Your Turn:

Think of a time when you had to rely on help from others. How did that feel to be in need? Let those feelings encourage you to help others.

Hebrew Word of the Day

January 7, 2021

Conversational Phrases

What's for dinner? — Mah Yesh Le’Orchot Erev


The Fellowship's Yael Eckstein looks up at the Babi Yar memorial in remembrance, Yom HaShoah

A Time for Silence, a Time for Speaking Up

As the Jewish people observe Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yael says we must remember the past in order to forge a better future.

Monthly Teaching Resource

Never Forget Never Again - Lessons of the Holocaust and Anti-Semitism

Never Forget/Never Again

Learn the lessons of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism and understand the horrific realities of genocide in this complimentary booklet, Never Forget, Never Again.

How to Help

Yael Eckstein sits holding the hands of elderly woman wearing multiple layers of clothing

Be Her Miracle

Lonely Holocaust survivors and elderly Jewish people are in desperate need of food, medicine, and shelter. Be a blessing in their lives and offer a lifesaving gift to help them survive. Your best gift today will meet their basic needs and give them hope for tomorrow. Prayerfully consider giving a donation and may you be blessed as you continue to bless God’s people.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay informed about issues affecting Israel, the Jewish people, Jewish-Christian relations, receive daily devotionals, and more.