When We Give to Others

Yael Eckstein  |  December 11, 2022

Yael smiling at an elderly Jewish woman while handing her a hot meal.

The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love

The LORD is good to all;
    he has compassion on all he has made
. — Psalm 145:8-9

In honor of my father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, and his lifework helping Christians understand the Jewish roots of their faith, I offer you one of his devotional teachings from the beloved Psalms.

The Jewish sages teach that we are obligated to imitate God as much as possible. That being the case, Psalm 145 serves as a great “curriculum” for learning how to be like God. With its acrostic structure, spanning the entire Hebrew alphabet, we have a study guide for how to be like God from A to Z! Every verse sings out God’s praises and describes His holy characteristics.

Let’s focus a moment on verses 8–9, which speak about God’s graciousness. Just as God is kind to all people, we also have to strive to be that way. I think many people find this challenging because they believe that by being selfless, they lose something. By being selfish, we think that we will gain more. However, the opposite is true. When we give to others, we get more out of life, not less.

When We Give to Others

Shlomo Carlebach, a renowned contemporary rabbi who died in 1994, shared this powerful story about a great rabbi in Poland who perished during the Holocaust. This particular rabbi focused on children and ran an amazing school. All his life, Rabbi Carlebach had wanted to meet one of those children. It was only in his later years that Rabbi Carlebach met an old hunchback sweeping the streets of Tel Aviv and discovered that this man was once a student of the holy teacher.

“Please share with me something that you learned from the rabbi!” Rabbi Carlebach begged. After some coaxing, the hunchback replied, “This is what the rabbi said to us over and over again: ‘The greatest thing in the world is to do somebody else a favor!’”

The old man continued. “When I was in Auschwitz, I wanted to end it all and kill myself. But then I would hear my rabbi’s voice say, ‘The greatest thing in the world is to do somebody else a favor!’ Do you know how many favors you can do in Auschwitz at night? People are lying on the floor crying. I would walk from one person to the other and ask, ‘Why are you crying?’ I would listen, hold their hands and cry with them. Then I would walk to the next person. And it would give me strength for another day.” 

The man continued, “I’m here in Tel Aviv and I have no one in the world. Sometimes I’m at my end, but then I hear my rabbi’s voice saying, ‘The greatest thing in the world is to do somebody else a favor.’ Do you know how many favors you can do on the streets of the world?”

Friends, today and every day, do someone else a favor. It truly is the greatest thing in the world!

Your Turn:

Don’t forget to tune into my podcast, Nourish Your Biblical Roots, which airs today with a new series all about Hanukkah, a celebration all about miracles!