Parashas Bamidbar

The Midrash on this week’s parashah expounds (Bamidbar Rabbah 2:12):
Avraham was blessed in terms of the stars, as it is written (Bereishis 13:5): “And He took him outside and said, ‘Look up, now, toward the heavens and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He told him: ‘So shall your offspring be!’” Yitzchak was blessed in terms of the sand, as it is written (Bereishis 22:17) [The angel speaking in Hashem’s name to Avraham after he put Yitzchak on the altar as an offering]: “I shall surely bless you, and I will surely make your offspring abundant like the stars of the heavens, and like the sand on the seashore.” And Yaakov was blessed in terms of the dust, as it is written (Bereishis 29:14): “And your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth.” Avraham’s blessing was fulfilled in Moshe’s days, as it is written (Devarim 1:10): “Hashem, your God, has multiplied you and – behold – you are like the stars of the heavens in abundance.” Yaakov’s blessing was fulfilled in Bilaam’s days, as it is written (Bamidbar 23:10): “Who has counted the dust of Yaakov?” And Yitzchak’s blessing was fulfilled in Hoshea’s days, as it is written (Hoshea 2:1, homiletically): “The number of the Children of Yisrael was like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured and cannot be counted. And it will then be, in the place where it had been said of them, ‘You are not My people,’ it will be said of them, ‘Children of the Living God!’” Now, since Yitzchak was the one blessed in terms of the sand, it should have been written, “The number of the Children of Yitzchak was like the sand of the sea.” But it is not written this way, but rather, “The number of the Children of Yisrael was like the sand of the sea.” Why? Because at the time that our forefather Yaakov left to go to Paddan-Aram, Yitzchak conveyed to him the blessing of the sand, as he said to him (Bereishis 25:4): “May He give you the blessing of Avraham.” … Said R. Chama bar Chanina: “Thus he said to him, ‘I am giving you the blessing with which Avraham and I were blessed together.” I shall surely bless you (ברך אברכך) – a blessing for the father and a blessing for the son. And I shall surely make your offspring abundant (הרבה ארבה את זרעך) – abundance for the father and abundance for the son. Like the stars of the heavens, and like the sand on the seashore. This blessing Yitzchak conveyed to Yaakov. And therefore it is written: “And the number of the Children of Yisrael was like the sand of the sea.”
The Maggid interprets this Midrash in terms of another Midrash, which reads as follows (Vayikra Rabbah 1:5):
It is better that it should be said to you, ‘Come up here,’ than that you be brought low before the prince (Mishlei 25:7). R. Akiva expounded on this verse in the name of R. Shimon ben Azzai: “Distance yourself two or three seats from the place you deserve to have and sit there until they tell you to come up, rather than coming up and have them tell you to go down. It is better that they should tell you “come up, come up,” than that they tell you, “go down, go down.” And thus Hillel said: “My bringing myself low is what elevates me, and my elevating myself is what lowers me.”
Yitzchak advised Yaakov along these lines, telling him: “Although in the eyes of others you may be as eminent as the stars, you should regard yourself as being like sand, and then you will maintain hold on your blessing. But if you raise yourself high, then in the end the blessing will turn into a curse. For it is Hashem’s way to bring the proud low and raise the lowly high.” Yaakov took Yitzchak’s advice. Therefore Hoshea says: “And the number of the Children of Yisrael was like the sand of the sea.” And then Hoshea continues: “And it will then be, in the place where it was said of them, ‘You are not My people,’ it will be said of them, ‘Children of the Living God!’” The Jewish People’s humility will be cause for them to be praised.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.