In Parashat Lech Lecha, Hashem tells Avraham that Bnei Yisrael will be so plentiful that their existence will be compared to the stars of the sky and the sand of the Earth. Interestingly, Hashem mentions this concept more than once throughout the Parashah, which seems superfluous. Why is the idea of stars and sand so crucial to Avraham that Hashem is compelled to describe Bnei Yisrael in this matter more than once?
Rav Meir Shapiro explains that when Hashem shows the stars to Avraham, Avraham actually begins to count the stars. This idea is important because it adds depth to the Pasuk, “Habet Na HaShamaima USefor HaKochavim Im Tuchal Lispor Otam VaYomer Lo Ko Yihiyeh Zarecha,” “‘Look up at the sky and count the stars, can you count them?’ And Hashem said to Avraham, ‘So shall your children be’” (BeReishit 15:5). Rather than dismissing Hashem’s mentioning of counting the stars as an impossible task, Avraham starts to count. This incredible quality of belief and perseverance on the part of Avraham is so impressive that Hashem adds this Pasuk despite having already mentioned that Avraham’s children would become a large nation. The purpose of this “So shall your children be,” implies that Bnei Yisrael will also be a strong-willed people who will carry on even if the task before them seems impossible.
Rav Yissocher Frand relates a similar story involving a certain blind Jew. This Jew had spent years writing his Chiddushei Torah, until he no longer had the ability to continue his work due to his old age. Shortly after stopping his work, the Jew became blind. When he went to the doctor, the doctor told him that his eyes should have stopped working years earlier due to his condition. However, since he had been working on his Sefer, the incredible willpower of Judaism kept his eyes working despite their terrible condition.
This phrase still rings true today, as shown by the great amount of Torah and Jewish life which has existed even in trying times such as the Crusades and the Holocaust when all hope seemed to have faded away. Despite all of our hardships, Jews from every time and place have moved forward. This trait, the Pasuk explains, is the direct result of the lifestyle and beliefs of our Patriarch, Avraham.
(Adapted from Rabbi Frand on the Parashah)