There is an as-yet unexplored galaxy of greatness in every Yid
“Look please toward the heavens and count the stars; if you are able to count them… So will be your children.” (Bereishis 15:5)
In this pasuk, Hashem makes one of the most dramatic promises in the Torah. “Your descendants will be as the stars.” In its simplest explanation, this is Hashem’s promise of a nation of uncountable multitudes.
Rav Meir Shapiro offers a novel, more powerful interpretation. Nothing seemed to ever get in the way of Avraham Avinu’s intense desire to bring Hashem’s light into the world. He walked in fire, took on mighty kings, and singlehandedly stood up to the entire world to demonstrate the concept of emunah in Hashem. He stood up to every challenge that any other person would shy away from. Not because he could, but because he was determined to.
This is what the Eibeshter was saying to Avraham Avinu. “You are looking up to try to count the stars because I asked you to, even though you know you can’t possibly count them. Your children will also have that dogged determination to accomplish, even when they know that according to the laws of nature, what they are trying to do is impossible.” (Rabbi Yisroel Kleinman, Timely Messages)
I haven’t been to any bar mitzvahs recently, but Henny is a good friend of mine. Also, I know she’s been having a hard time with her son Yisrael lately. Yisrael was in my son’s class until fifth grade, but the last couple of years he’s been bouncing around to different schools. So I made it a priority to attend Henny’s simchah.
Like Avraham Avinu, Klal Yisrael don’t measure their willingness to take on something by their ability to do it. Our ability is shaped by our determination to honor Hashem, to get it done, no matter the odds. Every community, every mosad hachinuch, chesed, or other tzarchei klal, was built by Yidden who reached far beyond their abilities and strengths.
The venue was an outdoor garden, stunning in the last glow of Jerusalem sunlight. I couldn’t have timed my arrival better, for Yisrael was just starting his bar mitzvah speech. I listened, impressed, as his words were delivered with confidence and maturity, a far cry from the antics I’d been hearing Henny describe these past few years. Then Yisrael segued into a siyum on Gemara Tamid. Those who know Gemara know that this is one of the shortest masechtas. Finishing it wasn’t the greatest of accomplishments, but for Yisrael, finishing it showed what he valued and wanted celebrated at his bar mitzvah.
As he read off the Hadran, my gaze was drawn to Henny. Eyes closed, tears streaming down her cheeks, she seemed oblivious to her surroundings. What was she thinking? Was she remembering months of heartache? Hoping for a more promising future?
Every one of us can reach further and achieve new horizons. If you don’t believe you can, then you’re forgetting that Hashem is with you on this. Where physical ability and practical resources stop, siyata d’Shmaya takes you way further. Reach up high and reach deep within yourself. With Hashem’s help, you can daven better. You can learn more and deeper. You can be more patient and kind. You can resist temptation. You can make a difference in someone’s life. You can make a change for the better in your community, your family, and your own life.
You can reach for the stars. Believe in yourself. Believe in your children. Believe that there is an as-yet unexplored galaxy of greatness in every Yid.
Yisrael finished Kaddish and I hung back, letting others approach Henny first to wish her mazel tov. Finally it was my turn. I pulled her slightly to the side for privacy.
“Henny, what’s going through your mind?” I asked gently.
“Yisrael…” She paused and choked up again. “Yisrael may not seem like he’s at the pinnacle of his shteiging. But he can. I’m not looking at his past, I’m focusing on his future. He has so much potential. So I asked Hashem,” she was crying again, “I begged Him to let Yisrael reach the stars. He’s going to shine. You just wait and see.”
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 715)
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