1998Abram is told to go on a journey. He is not told to where. He is, however, promised that he will be blessed in several ways. He goes wherever he is told. There is a famine in the land and he leaves the land and descends to Egypt. He has an adventure in Egypt and leaves, intact, with his wife and much property. He then has to arbitrate a quarrel between his shepherds and the shepherds of his nephew Lot. He is promised there that his progeny will be like the "dust of the ground". He is then told to traverse the land. Then there's a big war. Abram takes no booty and then...Abram complains to God that he has no heir, and God takes him outside and tells him, "...look toward the heavens, and count the stars. Can you count them?" At this stage Abram has yet to become Abraham.
Promises Promises But What Have You Done For Me Lately?
"I will make your seed like the dust of the ground, so that if a man were able to measure the dust of the ground, so too could your seed be measured".
"He brought him outside and said: Pray look toward the heavens and count the stars, can you count them? And he said to him: So shall your seed be".
Your Torah Navigator
First in Chapter 13 God analogizes Abram's progeny to the dust of the ground. And in Chapter 15 he analogizes them to the stars in the sky, why such a radical switch in metaphor?
Rashi on Genesis 15:5
...It's midrashic explanations is: Give up astrological speculations, Abram indeed will not have a son, but Abraham will. Sarai will not bear a child, but Sarah will. I will give you other names and your mazel (luck) will change...
Your Rashi Navigator
1. How does Rashi's comment address our question?
The Chasidim Say
One is born with two pockets. One pocket says the world is created for me, for I am like the stars of the sky. The other one says, I am nothing but dust. When one is flying high that person should be reminded that some day s/he will be returned to dust. When one is feeling low, s/he should look into the star-pocket and realize the world was created for them.
Rashi tells us that the first metaphor of dust is there to describe the number of progeny. The second metaphor is to teach how this will be achieved. It's not in the stars for Abram, but for Abraham, it is.
The Hasidim see that we exist in tension between dust and stars, and stars and dust. This is, according to the Hasidim, what was promised to Abram, Sarai and their seed, that we as people and as individuals would experience both. This is our fate and our destiny.