In the Jewish tradition, there's a well-known story about a rabbi who always carried a piece of paper in each of his pockets. In one pocket, the paper read, "The world was created just for me." In the other pocket, the paper read, "I am nothing but dust."
It is this balance—between being humble, but also recognizing our uniqueness before God—that has influenced how I live every single day of my life. It is a call to be humble yet recognize that God has blessed me with unique gifts and talents. It is understanding that God values each one of us, and within His plan, we each have the ability to make a difference in the world.
The basis for this teaching about knowing our true value comes from the Torah portion, known as the parshah (listen to Episode 1 of Nourish Your Biblical Roots on Charisma Podcast Network for more information on this ancient Jewish Bible-reading plan), that covers Exodus 30:11 through Exodus 34:35. In particular, we read from the first verses of the portion: "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the LORD a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them'" (Ex. 30:11-12, NIV).
While this verse may not seem particularly inspiring at first, it reveals deeper layers of meaning that become apparent when the passage is studied in Hebrew, the language in which it was originally written. In exploring what God intended in ordering the people be counted, there is a powerful message about the value of each person and how each one of us has the potential to profoundly impact the entire world.
In a world of 7 billion people, we often lose sight of our uniqueness and importance. But in God's eyes, it is like we are His only child. We each have a special mission here in this world that God created especially for us. What we do in this world does have enormous significance. I matter, and my actions matter.
It's like my father Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein always used to say to me, "You do your best, and you let God do the rest." And this really sums up what we can take away from this teaching. It encourages me to realize that I have to be my own unique self and that I can only contribute to the world if I'm doing it in an authentic way that reflects who I am in God's eyes.
It is only then that I can truly make a difference.
For more on how identity and purpose influence our reading of Scripture, listen to Nourish Your Biblical Roots on the Charisma Podcast Network.
Yael Eckstein is president and CEO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, the largest provider of humanitarian aid in Israel. Annually, The Fellowship raises more than $127 million, helping 1.5 million Jews in need in Israel and around the world.
Yael leads all ministry programs and serves as the international envoy and on-air advocate, giving her the rare distinction of being a woman leading one of the world's largest religious charities. She recently was named by a leading Jewish publication as one of "top 100 individuals who have positively influenced Jewish life" for her work as "the world's leading Jewish interfaith activist."
Yael's writings have appeared in a variety of respected publications, including The Jerusalem Post, Fox News, CBN, The Christian Post, Charisma and The Times of Israel. She is the author of three books: Generation to Generation: Passing on a Legacy of Faith to Our Children, Holy Land Reflections: A Collection of Inspirational Insights from Israel and Spiritual Cooking with Yael.
Born in Chicago and now a proud citizen of Israel, Yael and her husband, Amichai, are the proud parents of Meora, Liam, Sapir and Shimmy, to whom they are imparting the legacy of faith.
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