Inspired by the Stars of the Past

Yael Eckstein  |  October 14, 2021

An image of stars against a pink and purple sky.

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

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Lech Lecha, which means “go to yourself,” from Genesis 12:1–17:27.

One of the most inspiring aspects of living in Israel is being constantly surrounded by history. Driving down the highway, the road signs point to Tiberius, Jerusalem, Hebron, and the list goes on. Encountering important biblical sites nearly everywhere I go in Israel is not just interesting from the historical standpoint. I actually feel the presence of those who came before me. The lessons of their stories and their sacrifice speak loudly in my heart as I walk the length and breadth of this land.

When passing the town of Modiin, where the caves and tunnels used by the Hasmoneans to fight the pagan Greeks dot the hillsides or walking in Jaffa and picturing Jonah the prophet boarding a ship there, in Israel there is tangible feeling that history did not just happen a long time ago. It speaks to us every day.

Inspired by the ‘Stars’ of the Past

Jewish people place a lot of emphasis on history. We are constantly reminded that we are the extension of our ancestors. Although those who came before us are gone, we have a relationship with them. It is their hopes and dreams that we are fulfilling.

I like to think that this is what God meant in this week’s Torah portion, that He would make Abram’s descendants like the stars. From modern science, we know that the stars are extremely far away from us. Some of them are hundreds or even thousands of lightyears away.

This means that the light that we see from them has taken hundreds or thousands of years to get to us. So, when we look up at the stars, we are actually looking back in time. We are seeing light that is shining from a very long time ago.

Isn’t this just like the great people of the distant past? Even though they lived hundreds or thousands of years ago, we are still inspired by the “stars” of the past, whose lights are still shining so many generations later.

Your Turn:

Who are the “stars” — the people in your past — whose “light” has inspired you?