He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars — if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” — Genesis 15:5
The Torah portion for this week, Lech Lecha, which means “go to yourself.” It is from Genesis 12:1–17:27, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 40:27–41:16.
When Abraham first began his journey, God promised him that he would become a great nation. But now in their 70s and 80s, Abraham and Sarah began to wonder if that nation would be born from children of their own. In fact, Abraham told God, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir” (Genesis 15:3). Abraham concluded that the nation will be built by his close disciple, Eliezer.
Not so, said God. He reassured Abraham that he would have children and that his descendants would be many. How many? God told Abraham, “Look up at the sky and count the stars.” Can anyone, even with the most sophisticated technology, count all of the stars? “So shall your offspring be,” said God.
In using stars as His example, was God just teaching Abraham about the quantity of his offspring, or was he teaching him something about their quality as well? According to the Jewish sages, the stars are an analogy not just for the number of Abraham’s descendants, but also for their nature as well.
How does a star appear to us in the night sky? Tiny. A mere speck of light in the vast sky. But what’s the reality? Every star is like the sun. Every tiny speck of light in the sky is really a brilliant orbit of light. If we were to get close enough, we would be blinded by their brilliance.
And that’s how we need to see Abraham’s descendants. Those who follow God may not always appear to be bright and shiny. Sometimes they might even appear rather dull and tiny. But the truth is that they are huge and brilliant up in the heavens! Some of the brightest stars in heaven look small and lowly here on Earth.
When you look at another person, especially a child, remember that he or she is like a star. He might seem small to you. It might look like she hasn’t accomplished much, or that he might not amount to anything great. But how can we really know? Can we know who shines brightly up above? Can we know who is a superstar in God’s eyes?
Try to see every person as a hidden luminary, with unknowable potential to illuminate the world. When we see people for the bright and shiny stars that they are, they may just learn to see themselves that way, too.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President