The Hebrew Bible is possibly the greatest single source of wealth on Judeo-Christian values. It informs the lives of many around the world, providing insight on how to live a meaningful, happy and healthy life.
In the context of the great accessibility provided by online resources, it has never been easier to find Biblical passages that speak to the hearts of many, no matter one’s faith. The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, publishes daily devotionals to help people do just that.
The following are some of the most important highlights of Hebrew Bible devotionals, accessible on IFCJ’s website, and applicable to people of all faiths:
“In the tent of meeting, outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the LORD from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come.” (Exodus 27:21)
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, Founder and President of IFCJ, notes that real kindness is produced when we do something without expecting anything in return, even gratitude. He writes, “During the 40 years that the children of Israel were in the desert, God created a miraculous light – the pillar of fire – that led them by day and provided light at night. So when God commanded the Israelites to light the lampstand in Exodus 27:20, and to make sure that it burned both day and night, we have to wonder: Does God really need our light? After all, God created the sun, the moon, and the multitude of stars. What can our seven tiny flames possibly contribute?”
Eckstein concludes that when God commands us to light the lampstand, it’s not for His benefit, but for ours – so that we can feel a sense of worth and contribution. “This week,” he suggests, “look for ways you can give something without receiving anything in return. Try giving an anonymous gift or helping a complete stranger who you will never see again. You will find that you not only brighten someone else’s day, but you also add a tremendous amount of light to your own life.”
Treat Others With Honor and Dignity
“‘Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan.’” (Leviticus 25:10)
In a 1935 radio address, President Franklin Roosevelt said: “We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a nation, without reckoning with the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the Republic […] where we have been truest and most consistent in obeying its precepts, we have attained the greatest measure of contentment and prosperity.”
Indeed the Bible and Judeo-Christian values have shaped and molded America into the mighty nation that it is. This influence is especially evident in the opening line of the nation’s Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein notes that the Jubilee Year deals with this value. “Every 50th year would be a year of celebration. Slaves would go free. Property would go back to its original owner. People would return to their ancestral territory. Loans would be forgiven. Everyone would return to his or her original state of freedom and equality. The Jubilee Year was the great equalizer. No matter what had happened in the 50 years preceding the Year of Jubilee, it would return to its original state in the 50th year.”
He recommends, “Let us remember to treat everyone with honor and dignity. We are all equals. No one is below us and no one is above us – besides God. Let us serve as one nation under God indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all!”
Choose Faith Over Fear
“I, even I, am he who comforts you.
Who are you that you fear mere mortals,
human beings who are but grass,
that you forget the LORD your Maker,
who stretches out the heavens
and who lays the foundations of the earth,
that you live in constant terror every day
because of the wrath of the oppressor,
who is bent on destruction?
For where is the wrath of the oppressor?” (Isaiah 51:12–13)
In this verse, God repeats the word “I” – but why the repeat? Rabbi Eckstein says that each “I” refers to two attributes of God. The first, that He is the all-powerful creator of the world, contextualized in Exodus 20:8: “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” He is also all-loving, hears our cries and brings about salvation, as contextualized in Deuteronomy 5:12: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”
Notes Eckstein, the double “I” reminds us that He is both the One who can do anything and the One who loves us – a comforting message and reason to choose faith over fear, knowing that God can and will take care of us. According to Eckstein, “once we know God there is nothing to fear.”