(Torah Portion Lech Lecha) Super Stars
When our forefather Avraham was seventy-five years old, G-d promised him that he would have a child and eventually his descendants would be numerous like the stars in heaven.
The Talmud makes a calculation that in all the galaxies in heaven there are literally quadrillions of stars. This is a far greater number than the total number of the Jewish people.
Our Sages tell us the Jewish people are compared to stars, for when they connect with the spiritual they shine brilliantly and illuminate the world like the stars in heaven.
Commentators explain that just like the stars seem small from our vantage point, in fact they are far larger than any planet. So too, when we perform good deeds, observe Mitzvos or study Torah, it may seem insignificant to us in this world, yet in the reality of the upper metaphysical spheres one’s spirituality and good deeds have mammoth and colossal effects. The upper world is where one will eventually receive his ultimate reward – in the World to Come.
The verse states, “A Mitzvah is likened to a candle and Torah to illumination.” Perhaps we can explain and try to visualize the following: When one performs a Mitzvah and studies Torah, each of his deeds creates a sparkle of light on our planet. These many pinpoints of light when seen from the sky – illuminate the earth similar to the star speckled sky, and they bring light and clarity to the world.
The Mitzvos that we as a nation perform with the pinpoints of light created thereof – can certainly match the quadrillions of stars that are in heaven!
The Hebrew word for star is Kochav. The Kabalists explain that when you split the four letters of Kochav in half – you come up with Ko – which numerical value is 26, and Chav – which numerical value is 22. The number 26 is significant because it is the value of G-d’s name, which we are not permitted to pronounce. The number 22 is significant because it represents the 22 letters of Hebrew Alepf-Bais with which the Torah is formulated. Thus the combination of instilling G-dliness and Torah into one’s life – produces the greatest and most illuminating stars!
The Talmud tells us that teachers of young children are compared to shining stars. Commentators explain that just as sailors rely upon the stars to navigate at night, so too, children depend upon their dedicated teachers to help them chart a straight course in life.
Maharsha explains that although stars cannot be seen during the daytime, they are still illuminating. The same it true with dedicated educators. Their illumination and example remains with the students even when they are no longer with them.
But what about those of us who were not fortunate to have a teacher(s) to help navigate and instruct them about the illumination that bursts forth from the study of Torah and performance of Mitzvos?
There is a Yiddish expression – the Pintella Yid – loosely translated as the pilot light of each Jew. Each one of us is endowed with the light of a pure and lofty Neshama – soul – and that light can never be extinguished. On the contrary, it has the power to spark and ignite further spiritual illumination.
Each morning within our morning prayers we recite a Psalm from King David: “He [G-d] counts the number of stars, assigning names to all of them.”
A Jew may claim that due to his circumstances he has alienated, assimilated, been ignorant or neglectful of his Jewish identity, and therefore not worthy of G-d’s recognition. To this cry of despair, King David declares: G-d’s knowledge and concern is to the farthest reaches of the universe. He cherishes and counts even the smallest of stars in the most remote galaxies and calls them by name.
Similarly, G-d cares about even the most distant and estranged Jew. He too is counted by G-d and known by name, for we are all compared to stars.
A Jew always retains a spark that illuminates his soul and serves to motivate and raise his spiritual levels by connecting with G-d through Torah and Mitzvos, and thereby adds radiance to his life and illumination to the entire world as well.
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks