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"Because you have… not withheld your son, your only one, I shall greatly bless you and greatly multiply your children as the stars in the heavens, and as the sand on the seashore… All the nations shall bless themselves by your children, because you obeyed My Voice" (22:16-18).
The Radak explains that last sentence as meaning that the nations shall pray to G-d: "Bless us as you have blessed the descendants of Abraham". Thus the Israelite tradition focuses on Original Blessing flowing from the Akeida, not Original Sin. Even though later blessings such as those in the second paragraph of the Shema are conditional on the Israelites living up to their G-d-set expectations, there is a fundamental, underlying structure to the eternity of the relationship between G-d and His People. That is that the sufferings, agonies, and distress that have been part of our history do not last forever. Fundamentally, the Israelites are blessed by G-d. That indeed inspires the blessing that we recite on Rosh Hashanah: 'that You should forever remember the Binding of Isaac for Your Children: Blessed are You, G-d, who remembers the Covenant'.
Here, Abraham's descendants are compared to the stars. Here, they are also compared to the sand on the seashore. The Kli Yakar explains that as the stars are everlasting, so will the Israelites be everlasting. And as a sandy beach breaks the force of destructive high waves, so will the power unleashed by other nations against Israel break and not prevail. Ocean waves that look aggressive enough to wipe out land masses suddenly lose their power when breaking and running up the beach. Israel's attackers will falter likewise.
Elsewhere, they are compared to the dust: "I will make you children as the dust of the earth" (13:16). Dust, explains the Kli Yakar, refers to when the Israelites are humiliated and crushed. He observes that the Israelites up to and including his own lifetime only seek G-d with full sincerity when they are in complete degradation. When they are trampled down like the dust of the earth. The blessing is that they will recover and prosper: "Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will flourish: to the west, east, north and south" (28:14).
Additionally, the following explanation may be suggested. Dust does not reflect light, sand partially reflects light, and stars powerfully reflect light. When G-d "hides His face" (Deut. 31:18) from the Israelites, their degradation does not enable them to reflect G-d presence. As they become closer to him and reflect on their shortcomings, they partially reflect His light, as the sand. And as they become very close to G-d, as they were on entry to the Promised Land just before Moses' death, they reflect His light more intensely, as in: "G-d has made you great, behold today you are numerous as the stars of the heavens" (Deut. 1:10).
May we be worthy of that light with the coming of the days of the Messiah.
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
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