Parashat Lech Lecha
'Tis the season for melancholy
Fa la la la la, la la, la, laaaa.
'Twas the week before exams, and all throughout town,
all the millennials were complaining, with a hmph and a frown'
Yes, exams season is upon us, and it feels exactly like a certain festival of a certain other Abramic religion. But instead of spending time with our family, we retract like hermits and don't see them for weeks. Instead of 12 days of happy lead-up, complete with advent calendars, we are stuck with our one week of SwatVac, complete with hours of trying to understand the difference between Aldosterone and Anti-Diuretic Hormone (no, really, if anyone understands this, please send help). In spite of all this, our university does give us presents; 4-6 brand new, gift-wrapped exams, filled with questions which refer to content we didn't even know was in the syllabus. Thanks
(I'm sorry if it isn't exam time in Sydney, maybe it is, who knows what goes on over there, for all we know you don't even go to university, you just find a degree washed up on the shore of Bondi beach after a day of meaningful surfing.) But, if it doesn't work like that, you guys can agree that exams can sometimes feel impossible.
This week's parasha provides a little encouragement, in terms of our nation and that little word 'impossible';
In classic night-time-camp hadracha, G-d takes Avraham outside his tent to go stargazing.
"Look up at the sky and count the stars? Can you count them?" and he said to him. "So shall your children be" (Bereshit, 15:5)
This classic scene, in which G-d promises a 74-year-old childless man that he will be the father of a great nation, always reminds me of Helena Bonham Carter as the fairy godmother in Cinderella (https://youtu.be/OOcGYbK_GLM?t=153). Hashem promises Avraham something that he's wanted all his life, that previously seemed out of reach, "you SHALL go to the ball", he whispers to this slightly older, slightly less beautiful Cinderella.
However, there is another interpretation of this moment that portrays Hashem as less of a magical being, fulfilling the wishes of his children, but rather as a commentator on the traits of Avraham. When he asked Avram to look up to the sky and count the stars, that's exactly what he started doing, one...two... three...
To count all the stars in the night sky is seemingly impossible, there are so many, and it requires highly developed spatial awareness skills, which I for one, do not possess (still trying to figure out where the heck the kidneys are in relation to the rest of the body), but Avraham was willing to give it a crack. At this moment Avraham portrayed his die-hard optimism, his everlasting faith, and his ability to tackle any challenge. As Avraham continues to count, G-d smiles and says "so shall your children be", they will also carry the trait of optimism, and possess the ability to overcome immense challenges.
I am drawn to this new interpretation of the scene, for rather than promising Avraham a line of descendants, an image which is entirely faceless and impersonal, Hashem blesses the family of Avraham with eternal optimism, with just enough chutzpah and ingenuity to see right through that which seems insurmountable.
So whether it be exams or something (*cough*) more important, know that it's in your blood to achieve the feats that others would deem unattainable, out of the question; impossible.