Thursday, October 25, 2012
ABOVE THE STARS - LECH LECHA
Bereishis, 15:5: “And He [HaShem] took him outside and said, ‘gaze, now, toward the Heavens and count the stars if you are able to count them!’ and He said to him, ‘so too will be your offspring!” Rashi, Bereishis,15:5: sv. And He took him outside: “According to its simple meaning, He took him out of his tent to the outside to see the stars…Alternatively; He took him out of the space of the world and raised him above the stars; this is the language of habata – looking down.” Avraham Avinu expressed his concerns to HaShem that he had no descendant to continue his role of spreading G-d’s name in the world. HaShem reassured him that he would indeed merit to produce offspring that would be as abundant as the stars. Rashi notes the extra words in the verse describing this discussion of: “He took him outside” – what does this taking out refer to? Rashi’s first explanation simply says that HaShem took him out of his tent to see the stars. However, he continues and offers another explanation; that HaShem seemed to take Avraham out of this world to show him the stars - Rashi emphasizes the fact that Avraham was above the stars and HaShem told him to look down on them. Why, according to this interpretation, did HaShem deem it necessary to bring Avraham to a state of being above the stars? How did that add to the message that HaShem was telling Avraham – that he would have descendants who would be as numerous as the stars? Perhaps we can answer this question through a fascinating comment made by the Baal HaTurim in Parshas Bereishis. Having completed its account of the creation of the universe, the Torah states: “These are the products of the heavens and the earth when they were created [behibaram] on the day of HaShem, G-d’s making.” The Torah applies the unusual wording of behibaram to describe G-d’s creation. The Baal HaTurim observes that the letters of בהבראם can be reassembled to spell a different word: באברהם which literally means, ‘for Avraham’. He explains that the Torah is alluding to us that the heavens and earth were created in the merit of Avraham. This means that the whole purpose of Creation was worthwhile because of Avraham Avinu. How do we understand this idea? The Mesillas Yesharim tells us, HaShem created the world in order to bestow pleasure on mankind, and the way to tap into such pleasure is through fulfillment of His Mitzvos. After twenty generations of mankind, Avraham Avinu emerged as the person who could enable HaShem’s goal to be met. In this way, the creation of the universe was all in his merit. We can now explain why HaShem took him above the stars and told him to look down on them. Standing above something demonstrates superiority over that thing, thus HaShem was telling Avraham that he was above the stars in the sense that he was above them because they were only created at all in his merit! If not for Avraham, then there would have been no need for stars or anything else in creation. This deeper message served to strengthen HaShem’s point that Avraham would indeed have offspring. HaShem was allaying his concern that he would have no descendants to continue his task of spreading G-d’s name in the world. Since the whole purpose of creation could only be fulfilled through Avraham, it was essential that he have children who would continue in his path. Chazal extend this idea to include every descendant of Avraham Avinu as well : The Mishna tells us: “Every person must say, ‘the world was created for me’.” This should simultaneously give us a sense of importance and responsibility. There is absolutely no reason for a person to have feelings of insignificance; he is so valuable that the whole of creation was worthwhile just for him. At the same time this should make one realize that every action he performs has great ramifications in the spiritual world. Internalizing these basic tenets of Torah thought should provide the foundation for us to reach our full potential in emulating our forefather, Avraham in bringing HaShem’s presence into this world,.