Jewish Soul Journey

Stars of the Heavens or the Sand of the Seashore

We are all familiar with Hashem’s oath to Avraham Avinu after the Akeidas
Yitzchak – or are we? “The angel of Hashem called to Avraham a second time from
heaven. And he said, ‘By myself I swear – the word of Hashem – that because you
have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only one, that I
shall surely bless you and greatly increase your offering like the stars of
the heavens
and like the sand on the seashore and your offspring shall
inherit the gate of its enemy. And all the nations of the earth shall bless
themselves by your offspring, because you have listened to My voice.’” (Vayeria
– 22:15-17), What is the nature of this promise? After all, if we are likened
to the lofty, exalted multitude of stars, what is being added by the words that
compare us to the minuscule sand on the seashore?

   To add to this quandary, the Midrash Or
HaAfelah informs us that this pasuk teaches us the inevitable consequence of
our momentous choices:  When the Jewish
nation complies with the Creator’s will, we will resemble the stars of the
heavens, whom no nation can dominate, however when the Nation is defiant, then
it will resemble the sand of the seashore that is trampled by every oppressive
foot. The Medrash suggests that this promise to Avraham is not exclusively a
blessing, for it also contains an admonition. Since we are told that this
promise is Avraham’s reward for the Akeidah: – “. . .  because you have listened to My voice”, how
can we properly understand this Midrash?

       Perhaps we can find a solution to the implication
of this Midrash, in the pasukim, by considering two well known but seemingly paradoxical
paths in the service of Hashem that are actually complementary to each other.  One path is to serve Hashem, like the stars
of the heavens, by seeing the gadlus haBorei — the majesty of the Infinite
Creator, while the other path is achieved through seeing oneself, like the sand
of the sea, through

 the lens of shiflus atzmo – our
relative minuteness. Through learning Torah we can come to see the gadlus haBorei
in every facet within the creation, whereas our tefillos are designed to aid us
in reaching a place of equanimity through humbly recognizing our total
dependence on the benevolence of the Creator. Just as the waves of the sea
wash over the sand constantly purifying it, so do the “waves” of our nusach in
tefillah flow through us constantly purifying and realigning our “attitudinal
coastlines” according to the will of Hashem.

              Furthermore, perhaps we
can surmise that even though being compared to the sand of the seashore
contains an admonition, there is also imbedded within it a blessing for just
like sand when trampled upon maintains its unique resilience and unity, so how
much more so is the grandeur of our holy Jewish nation has demonstrated time
and time again its resiliency in weathering throughout our shifting historical
galus the political, theological and social “storms” that that, have tried to
erode away our idealism and solidarity
”. Fortunately the blessing given to
Avraham Avinu and his descendants to be like the sand of the sea assures us
that even though some of the nation has drifted away from the service of our
benevolent Creator, soon refreshing “tides of holiness”, captained by Malcus
David, will float everyone back to his or her place within the nation so as to
be in position to usher in the final geula and rebuilding of our holy Temple. We
see expressed in the Min Hameitzar of Hallel as it is said: – “You pushed me
hard that I might fall but Hashem assisted me” and then the Hallel continues
with the inspiring expression: “The stone despised by the builders has become
the cornerstone.”

            Another wondrous moshal that can be culled
from our being compared to the sand of the seashore; just as grain of sand
that becomes imbedded within a oyster can be miraculously become the catalyst
for the formation of a precious pearl, how much more so can we, the Jewish
nation, that has been swallowed up within the troughs of galus, use this challenging
opportunity to reveal the “pearls” of our potential

             May we also soon merit
the words at the conclusion of the blessing promised to Avraham Avinu: “And all
the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your offspring, because you
have listened to My voice.”


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