It’s hard to believe that February 6 marks two years since my father’s soul left this world. Two years since my dear Abba, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, suffered a heart attack – and our hearts were broken. However, while I miss my father every single day, and I don’t think that will ever change, I will take this time not just to mourn his death, but also to celebrate his life.
Lately, I have been thinking about my final weeks with my father. One of the last things that we did together, several weeks before he died, was visit an army base here in Israel. We went on behalf of The Fellowship, delivering treats and supplies in order to bring some joy to the soldiers and lift their spirits.
The night before the visit, my father was feeling a bit under the weather, but when I suggested canceling, he insisted on going anyway. He explained that the soldiers were looking forward to our visit and he didn’t want to disappoint them. We went forward with our trip as planned, and I can still see my father’s smiling face, beaming with joy, as he handed out packages to the grateful soldiers.
The Month of Adar
That was my father – he dedicated his life to bringing joy to others. And nothing brought him more joy than helping others and knowing that he made someone happy.
At my father’s funeral, I spoke about how fitting it was that he passed away on the first day of the Hebrew month of Adar. More than any other month, Adar is associated with joy. The holiday of Purim, which celebrates the events recorded in the Book of Esther, takes place during this month. In the Book of Esther we read, “For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor” (8:16). Accordingly, the Jewish sages taught, “When the month of Adar arrives, we increase our joy.” How appropriate that my father’s memory will forever be connected to the month of increased joy.
If my father were alive today, I can only imagine how hard he would be working to help those suffering from the Coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis. Through his life’s work, he taught us what it means to be dedicated to helping others and his example continues to inspire me through the long days (and sometimes, nights) that I spend working to meet the growing needs brought about by the pandemic. I imagine him smiling down on all of us – the entire Fellowship family – as we alleviate the loneliness of thousands of elderly who have become completely isolated and provide aid for thousands of families who have lost their source of income. And it is because of my father’s unrelenting commitment to building The Fellowship that we were able to help over 2 million people in need over the past year.
Bringing Happiness to Others
However, as Israel completes its fourth week in the country’s third lockdown, and many of us seem to be feeling a bit down, I think we can learn another important lesson from my father. He taught us that an extremely powerful way to increase joy in our own lives – even as we experience personal hardship – is to bring happiness to someone else. It’s not always easy to ease the burden of another person and bring them some joy, but it is always rewarding. When we put a smile on someone else’s face, it is almost impossible not to smile ourselves.
As I mark the anniversary of my father’s passing this year, I will focus on his legacy and thank God for the years I was blessed to have him in my life. In his merit, I will continue his life’s work by spreading hope and bringing joy to God’s people. I invite you to honor my father’s memory by doing something to make another person happy. In doing so, you will increase God’s light in the world and bring joy to your own life too.
With blessings from the Holy Land,
Tags: Rabbi Eckstein The Fellowship