Friday, November 03, 2006

Daf Yomi in the Parsha by Oizer

Compiled by Oizer Alport

ויוצא אתו החוצה ויאמר הבט נא השמימה וספר הכוכבים

אם תוכל לספר אתם ויאמר לו כה יהיה זרעך (15:5)

After Avrohom Avinu miraculously defeated the armies of the four kings and rescued the captured people and possessions, he feared that the miracles Hashem performed on his behalf had detracted from the reward awaiting him in the World to Come. Hashem reassured him and promised that his reward would indeed be very great. Avrohom then expressed his worry that he had no children to inherit him, to which Hashem replied by promising that he would indeed merit to have children.

Hashem then took Avrohom outside and instructed him to gaze toward the Heavens. Hashem challenged him to attempt to count the number of stars and cryptically added, “so shall your offspring be.” Why did Hashem present Avrohom with such an impossible task, and what did He mean with His blessing, “so will your offspring be?”

Rav Meir Shapiro beautifully explains that although finite, the number of stars is clearly so great as to be beyond human comprehension and certainly uncountable with the naked eye. An intelligent person who is challenged to do so will likely decline the impossible task. Knowing that he will be unable to successfully finish the project, he will choose not to even begin. Avrohom Avinu was also aware of this reality. Nevertheless, when Hashem suggested that he attempt to count the stars, he quickly went outside, looked up in the sky, and began counting, “One, two, three.”

Avrohom was undaunted by apparent restrictions and natural limitations, recognizing that the power of one’s will and commitment to a project can allow him to succeed where others foresaw only failure. Upon recognizing Avrohom’s contagious enthusiasm and willingness to disregard naysayers, Hashem quickly blessed him that so should his offspring be a nation known for their dedication and perseverance against all odds.

Not surprisingly, Rav Meir Shapiro – whose yahrtzeit (7 Cheshvan) traditionally falls in the week of Parshas Lech Lecha – lived by his own teachings. More than any other single figure in the 20th century, he singlehandedly revolutionized Torah study as we know it today through his development of the concept of Daf Yomi – learning one page of Gemora daily. The odds of his program spreading and taking off were clearly stacked against him. The potential for any of a number of obstacles to derail his plan before it got off the ground was great. Yet like his forefather Avrohom before him, he ignored the probability of not succeeding, realizing that with the aid of the fire which burned within him, he would be able to reach the stars, and beyond!

© 2006 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to