Dust, Sand and Stars
In the vicious wave of anti-Semitic propaganda sweeping the world, Jews, especially Israelis, are being compared to many vile things. The hatemongers have not even hesitated to compare Jews in Israel, defending themselves against murderous terrorists, to the accursed Nazis who murdered six million European Jews.
Jews will this Shabbat hear in the weekly Torah reading a different sort of comparison. They will be uplifted upon once again hearing the Divine promise to the Patriarch Avraham that because of the devotion he displayed in being prepared to offer his beloved son as a sacrifice he would be blessed with an "exceeding multiplication of his seed like the stars of the heaven and the sand upon the seashore." (Bereishet 22:16-17)
Avraham had previously (ibid. 13:16) been promised that his posterity would be as numerous "as the dust of the earth". Sand, dust and stars, our Torah commentaries point out, refer to three different stages of Jewish history. Sometimes Jews are the victims of persecution which renders them to the dust upon which their enemies tread. It is at such times that they discern the Heavenly message and call to Heaven for mercy.
The sand upon the seashore is where the mighty ocean waves encounter an impassible barrier to their threat to flood the world. This is symbolic of the repeated attempts of our enemies to achieve a "final solution to the Jewish problem" only to be restrained by Divine intervention. The stars represent Jewry in its ideal state, elevated above all the nations and serving as a light for them.
In last weeks column we quoted the exposition of Ramban on the four promises given to Avraham in regard to his posterity and their land. He points out that in the promise following his binding of Yitzchak on the altar Avraham received the additional assurance that his posterity "would possess the gates of its enemies". This means that no matter how threatened the Jewish people would be they would inevitably overcome their enemies Israel Forever.