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Posted on October 25, 2023 (5784) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly portion: #1266 – The Syrian Sefardic Community’s Ban on Conversion. Good Shabbos!

The pasuk says, “And Avram said, ‘My L-rd, Hashem Elokim: What can You give me being that I go childless and the steward of my house is the Damascene Eliezer?'” (Bereshis 15:2). Avraham frets to the Ribono shel Olam: What is going to be of me? I have no heirs! He fears that his servant Eliezer will inherit his entire household. Hashem responds: “…That one will not inherit you; only the one who shall come forth from within you shall inherit you.” (Bereshis 15:4). The Ribono shel Olam then took Avraham outside, directed his attention to the sky, and asked him if he could count the stars. Obviously, this was impossible. The Almighty told Avraham “Thus will be your seed.” (Bereshis 15:5). This is what your nation is eventually going to be like.

I saw a beautiful insight from Rav Meir Shapiro. The following is what I believe he means to say:

There is a problem in this pasuk. The pasuk says that Hashem took Avraham outside and told him to count the stars. Then the pasuk says, “And He said to him (Vayomer lo…) so will be your seed.” Inasmuch as Hashem has already been the one speaking in this pasuk, the repetition of the words “Vayomer lo” are superfluous. We already know who is talking!

Rav Meir Shapiro explains that the words “Vayomer lo” need to be inserted into this pasuk because something happened between Hashem’s earlier statement to Avraham and His subsequent statement to him. Hashem told Avraham “Go outside and count the stars.” So Avraham indeed went out from his tent, looked heavenward and began counting: “One, two, three, four…”. He started counting the stars even though this was an obvious impossibility. Hashem told him, “Avraham, you are trying to do the impossible.” Avraham responded, “But you told me to count the stars so I tried to count them.” Hashem responded, “Oy! This is what the Jewish people will be like!” They will look at something that seems like an impossible dream, and they will attempt to make it happen! “So too will your descendants act.” That ability to look at a situation and not be turned off or discouraged by what seems to be impossible does not stop the Jewish people from trying to make the effort.

If we study examples throughout Jewish history, we are in awe of what the Jewish people experienced and how they were able to pick up and start again. You know many such events. We do not need to go back to ancient times. We need only look back 75 or 80 years. Consider a few examples:

  1. Rav Aharon Kotler came to America in 1941 from Kletzk, where he had Gedolei Yisrael as talmidim. When he started a yeshiva in Lakewood, New Jersey, where were his students holding?
  2. Rav Muttel Katz, who lost his entire family in Telshe and came to the United States in the 1940’s, took boys from public schools and made them into Torah scholars, building in the process a major Yeshiva in Cleveland, Ohio.
  3. The Rosh Yeshiva zt”l (of Ner Yisroel), was walking with Rav Schwab in Baltimore. They walked by a building on Garrison Blvd and Liberty Heights Avenue. (Don’t go there today.) He told Rav Schwab, “Ah, this will be the dormitory for the Yeshiva.” There were eight bochrim in the Yeshiva at the time, and the building he was eyeing had capacity for 50 bochrim.
  4. When Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman walked along the sand dunes of Bnei Brak and envisioned the Ponevezh Yeshiva that he planned to reestablish there after its European destruction, he was told “You are dreaming.” He responded, “I may be dreaming, but I am not sleeping!”

This ability to pursue a goal even if it seems impossible began with Avraham. Avraham started counting the stars, expecting to learn their number even though it was a Mission Impossible! So too is the practice of his offspring.

Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]

Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Lech Lecha is provided below:

  • # 028 – Conversion (Geirus)
  • # 070 – Bris Milah: The Metzizah Controversy
  • # 119 – Conversion for Ulterior Motives
  • # 166 – The Childless Couple in Halacha
  • # 212 – Non-Jews and the Mitzvah of Kibbud Av
  • # 256 – Mohel and Baby: Who Goes to Whom
  • # 302 – The Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisroel
  • # 346 – Trading Terrorists for Hostages
  • # 390 – Geirus — Mitzvah, Reshus, or Issur?
  • # 434 – Anesthesia During Milah
  • # 478 – Sandik — Can You Change Your Mind?
  • # 522 – Calling Avraham, Avrum
  • # 566 – Learning Vs. Saving A Life
  • # 610 – The Widow & the Divorcee: How Long Must they wait to remarry
  • # 654 – Sonei Matonos Yichye – Refusing Gifts
  • # 698 – Did the Avos Keep the Torah?
  • # 742 – Can You Change Your Mazel?
  • # 786 – The On-Time vs. the Delayed Bris
  • # 830 – Standing for A Chosen and Kallah At The Chupah
  • # 874 – Saving Some-One’s Soul- How Far Must You Go?
  • # 918 – Hidur Mitzvah – How Important?
  • # 961 – Tying Shoes – Not As Simple As You Think
  • #1005 – Inviting People to a Bris – Good Idea or Bad?
  • #1049 – Honoring Your Wife
  • #1092 – The Baal Teshuva Who Wants To Convert His Non-Jewish Girlfriend
  • #1135 – “Schar Pe’sios” – Should You Walk Or Drive To Shul (on weekdays)
  • #1178 – Shabbos Milah of A Child Whose Parents Are Not Shomrei Shabbos
  • #1222 – Milah For The Son of a Jewish Father and a Non Jewish Mother
  • #1266 – The Syrian Sefardic Community’s Ban on Conversion
  • #1310 – Giving Gifts to Non-Jews
  • #1354 – Should I Stay in the US to Take Care of My Parents or Make Aliya to Eretz Yisroel?
  • #1398 – Meshaneh Makom Meshaneh Mazel – Changing Your Mazel
  • #1442 – The Importance of Always Staying With The Same Host
  • #1486 – Quantity vs. Quality – What wins?
  • #1530 – Receiving Gifts: A Good or Bad Idea?
  • (2022) – A Postponed Bris Milah – Never on a Thursday?

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