Reaching for the Stars

In Parshat Lech Lecha (Breisheet 13:14-17), we read: “God said to Avraham after Lot separated from him: ‘Raise your eyes and look about from the place where you are, to the north, to the south to the east and to the west. For all the land that you see I give to you and to your descendants forever. I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth so that if a man can count the dust of the earth, then your descendants too will be countable. Rise, walk the land through its length and breadth, for to you I will give it.’”

A few chapters later in Breisheet 15:5-6 we read:  “He (God) took him (Avraham) outside and said: ‘Habet’, ‘Gaze’ toward the Heavens and count the stars if you are able to count them!’ And He said to him ‘so shall your offspring be!’ And he trusted in God, and this He accounted to him for righteousness.”

After Akedat Yitzchak (the binding of Isaac), God promised Avraham (Breisheet 22:17-18): “I will greatly bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and like the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will inherit the gate of their enemies. Through your children will be blessed all of the nations of the world because you heeded My voice.”

In Breisheet Raba 44:12 we find the midrash where God took Avraham out of the terrestrial void and lifted him above the stars. The word “Habet”, “Gaze” signifies looking from above to below (meaning: looking down at the stars).

God showed Avraham that he is above and beyond the astrological influences. God controls the constellations and Avraham as a Navi (prophet) has the ability to pray and change his own destiny. Just because the astrologers read in the stars that Avraham would not have a child did not mean that it was an ultimate destiny.

In Megilat Ester 6:13-14 we read: “Haman told Zeresh, his wife, and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then his wise men and Zeresh, his wife, told him: ‘If Mordechai, before whom you have begun to fall is of Jewish descent, you will not prevail against him, but you will surely fall (naphol tipol) before him.’”

In the Talmud, Megillah 16a, Rabbi Yehuda bar Ilai explains why there is a double expression of falling (naphol tipol). They told Haman: “the nation of Israel is compared to dust and is compared to the stars. When they descend, they descend to the dust but when they rise, they rise to the stars.”

According to Maharsha, when they descend, they descend to the dust that anyone can trample on. However, when they rise, they rise to the stars where they can not be harmed.

Throughout Jewish history there were many cases where the Jews were trampled on like the dust of the earth. With the formation of the State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces, the Jewish people can now reach for the stars and serve as an “ohr lagoyim”, a light upon the nations. Israel has the obligation to protect those who have come from all over the world to make Israel their home fulfilling God’s promise to Avraham that the Land of Israel is the eternal inheritance of the Jewish people.

May Israel shine like the stars in the sky!

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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