D’var Torah: Parashat Lech Lecha
In his D’var Torah ahead of ShabbatUK this week, the Chief Rabbi challenges us to raise the bar and reach for the stars!
Can anyone count the stars? This was a task set to none other than Avraham.
Our Patriarch was deeply worried; what was going to happen in the future? Would he actually have physical descendants, and if he would, how would they survive?
In response, Hashem, in a grand vision, took him outside…and he said to him: “Ha beit na hashamayma, usfor hakochavim – im tuchal lispor otam? … “look up towards the Heavens, and count the stars – is it possible to count them?”
“Vayomer lo ko yihiye zarecha” … and then Hashem said to Avraham “this is what your descendants will be like”.
‘Against the odds, Hashem will enable us to survive with great numbers’
So, what exactly was the message here? Usually we understand this simply to mean that nobody can count the stars, and in the same way, the descendants of Avraham, the Jewish people, through the ages, will simply be countless in terms of our numbers. Against the odds, Hashem will enable us to survive with great numbers.
Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch explained as follows: Here, he said, we see the supernatural ability of God to rule over the entire universe, and our capacity as a people will come from Hashem’s ability, and in that way, we will be able to defy nature in order to survive.
And then there’s a beautiful perush of Rav Meir Shapiro. He highlights for us what actually happened there. Hashem said to Avraham, “look to the skies and count the stars”, and what does Avraham do? He starts to count them. He didn’t say to Hashem, “no it’s impossible”. He actually started, he tried his best.
‘And isn’t that exactly what we have discovered through our history? We’ve never been put off from aspiring to reach great heights’
Noticing what he did, Hashem then said, “Ko yihiye zarecha…this is what your descendants will be like”. In situations where challenges seem to be insurmountable, when there will be tasks and aspirations which seem to be unobtainable, nobody will ever say we shouldn’t try. Your descendants, Hashem said to Avraham, like you, they will raise the bar. They will strive for the ultimate. Nothing will stop them from going for gold.
And isn’t that exactly what we have discovered through our history? We’ve never been put off from aspiring to reach great heights. And because of that Hashem has helped us along the way; and as a result, we as a nation thankfully, have achieved so much. The lesson we learn from Avraham Avinu is – we should never say never.