D’var Torah: David Preiss (Lech Lecha)

Lech Lecha is our introduction to the relationship between Avraham – then Avram – and God. The parsha opens with God instructing Avram to leave his home and move his family to Canaan, where God promises to give him great blessings. At this point, God doesn’t go into detail about those blessings. For now, Avram and Sarai are settling childless – and advanced in age – in a foreign land.

A bit later in the parsha, God leads Avram through a ritual known as Brit Bein Habetarim – the Covenant of the Pieces. Through this covenant, God describes the great nation that will descend from Avram, and the land that will be theirs. Genesis 15:5 describes a famous moment in this episode, when Avram is “brought out” to count the stars. “So shall be your seed”, God explains. 

I always imagined Avram gazing up at an ancient, smog-free, star-filled sky, in which the entire galaxy might have been visible. It would have been impossible to count those stars because there would have been far too many of them. 

Oddly though, only 3 verses later – in Genesis 15:12 – the Torah tells us that “the sun was going down”. This timeframe seems puzzling. If God had just shown Avram all the stars in the sky – presumably at night, when the sky was dark –  how could the sun be setting now? 

One interpretation understands the words “vayotzei oto hachutza” – “God brought him out”  – to mean that God didn’t just take Avram out of his tent (as I’d imagined), but rather God took him outside of the entire world, allowing him to see the whole Earth and all its stars. 

The interpretation I like best however, accepts that stars are invisible during the day. God took Avram out of his tent and told him to count the stars. Avram, looking up at the sky, found the task impossible. He could see only one star, the brilliant sun: “So shall be thy seed.” Maybe God was giving Avram a hint about the nation that would descend from him: the people of Israel, the light unto the nations. Our world needs more light; may we live up to this promise.

David Preiss, Schechter Parent

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