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.”