Parshas Breishis - Who Knows Eleven?

By Rabbi Zvi Teichman

Posted on 10/01/21

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
Dr. Shapsy Tajerstein, DPM - Podiatry Care.
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One of the great marvels of creation are the vast volume of stars that comprise the innumerable galaxies in space.

But were stars actually created?

The verse records how G-d ‘made’ the two great luminaries, the greater luminary to dominate the day and the lesser luminary to dominate the night, and then goes on to pithily add — ‘and the stars’, never directly addressing it being ‘created’. Nor does G-d make any reference to the stars when He instructed, ‘let there be luminaries.’

The Chizkuni, as well as the Rosh who quotes a Midrash, explain that it was only after the moon was diminished from its former strength, after complaining that ‘two kings cannot serve under one crown’, that the sparks of light that fragmented from the ‘humbled’ moon, transformed into the billions of galaxies of stars that now occupy the Heavens.

They were in essence never in the original plan nor ‘created’, merely the consequence of the effect of the now downsized moon.

Stars seem to play a vital role in the performance of the recent mitzvah of Sukkah. Although only Bais Shammai requires the schach to be thinned out enough to ‘see the stars’ beyond them, even Bais Hillel says it is preferable although not critical.

Why is the viewing of the stars the measure of ‘healthy’ schach?

There are only three contexts in which stars play a role in our tradition.

Firstly, in reference to the promise to Avraham that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars in the Heavens.

Secondly, in Yosef’s second dream where the tribes are depicted as the ‘eleven stars bowing down to him’.

Lastly, Bilaam prophesies about ‘a star that will issue from Yaakov’, referring to either King David, or alternately, the Moshiach.

We are compared to the ‘dust of the earth’ and to the ‘stars.'

Granules of earth when joined together create a barrier able to withstand the severest of elements. This represents our united efforts as a people that carry us through all challenges.

The stars exemplify the powerful light each one of us possess. We are each different, some larger some smaller, some visible others not. But we each contribute uniquely to the mission of promoting G-d’s will in the universe. When we look to the stars we must reflect not only on our own worth, but equally on the worth of others, despite the fact we may not discern it with our limited human vision.

Without this second awareness — appreciating and valuing all those around us, we can never fully achieve the full power of our united efforts.

The three references to ‘stars’ each underline this principle.

After discovering each other's strengths, we must be vigilant never to allow our personal ambition to blind ourselves to other’s greatness.

The brothers jealously viewed Yosef through their own limited perception of his true stature, quickly condemning his impetuous and childish motives. The eleven ‘stars’ refused to properly assess his greatness.  

Yosef’s dream came to fruition, in a divinely orchestrated testament to Yosef’s superior stature.

After revealing his identity, they finally came to fathom his greatness, humbling themselves before him, realizing their error of judgment.

Finally, Dovid HaMelech and his descendant the Melech HaMoshiach, epitomize the essence of Malchus as defined by the Rambam — לבו הוא לב קהל ישראל, his heart encompassed the hearts of the entire Congregation of Israel. He valued and cherished each one’s unique role and mission, inspiring and elevating the masses towards their personal greatness.

The now diminished moon would forever symbolize the humble subjugation of ego for the greater role of reflecting a ‘higher light’, the light of Hashem.

The stars that split off from the moon’s initial illumination, represent every Jewish soul that shines uniquely, to be appreciated for its special luminescence, even when it cannot be sensed by our physical senses.

This is the ultimate implementation of the tikkun for the moon’s error — to remove personal bias and view accurately others’ significance.

As we each sat in our Sukkos contemplating our personal mission and connection to Hashem, we gazed through this holy abode at the countless stars in the Heavens, reminding ourselves to value properly each member of Klal Yisrael.

We sing the joyous song on Pesach eve of ‘Who knows One?’ ascending in number from one through thirteen, finding parallels to these numbers. It seems redundant when we allude to the eleven stars [in Yosef’s dream — the tribes who bowed to him], and then immediately recall the twelve tribes.

Perhaps the lesson therein is that when we inculcate the lesson of the ‘eleven tribes’ who learned to finally appreciate one another, despite their differences, only then will we merit to restore the completion of the ‘twelve tribes’ who embody the beautiful ways of our illustrious Avos and Imahos, meriting the final redemption.


צבי יהודה טייכמאן