In this week’s parasha, When Avram laments his childlessness, Hashem answers as follows: “Look up at the sky and count the stars, can you count them? And he said to him, So shall your children be.” (Bereishit 15:5). The literal meaning is clear enough. Hashem is telling Avraham that he should not despair, his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. More beautiful, however, is the metaphor of the stars.
We learn from the psalms that Hashem gave a name to each of the stars (Psalms 147:4). Rav Kook teaches that a name “reflects an entity’s inner essence and defines a person’s fundamental purpose.” Each star is therefore unique and has a special purpose. The comparison then suggests that each of Avraham’s descendants has a mission, a role, a special importance as an individual of Klal Yisrael. What that mission may be is up to us to uncover.
The Torah is not a book of tales or stories. It is the book of our ancestors, it is our history, our guidebook for life and for reaching our full potential. Our forefather, Avraham, was extraordinary in his determination to overcome any obstacle and to forge ahead regardless of the circumstances. It is not that he was a superior being, devoid of emotions who could ignore his feelings. Indeed, we learn from the Midrash that Avraham wept profusely when he placed his son on the alter. Avraham was very human. Rabbi Frand, in commenting on this week’s parasha, points out that this is a trait that has been passed down to his descendants through the generations. “When we try”, he writes, “amazing things often happen”. It is through persistence that we discover our true abilities.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe shares a beautiful thought: “We are all Abraham’s shining stars, possessing sufficient moral and spiritual fortitude to prevent others around us from stumbling and to exert a positive influence on them”.
If we all looked at our children as shining stars, with unique qualities and incredible potential, if we nurtured their talents, encouraged them to reach and try, there is no telling the heights they may reach or the light they may bring to our world. Our children and our children’s children are part of the promise that Hashem made to Avraham. We all have a role in helping Him keep that promise!
Dr. Laura Segall
Head of School