Moshe Dayan was driving down a highway in Israel in a big rush, so he floored the accelerator and, much to his chagrin, got stopped by a traffic officer for speeding.

“I know who you are, sir. With your black eye patch, you are famous and unmistakable. You are a renowned war hero of our country,” said the officer. “But I am giving you a ticket anyway. You, of all people, should be setting a better example.”

“Look here,” says Moshe Dayan. “You see I have only one eye. Do you want me to look at the road or the speedometer?”

We Jews have never looked at the speedometer.

What do I mean?

In Parshat Lech Lecha, G‑d promises Abraham (who was still childless at the time) that he will go on to father a great nation.

“And He took him outside and said, “Gaze now toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.”1

G‑d was promising Abraham that not only would he bear a son, but that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. Can you count the stars? Of course, as kids we always tried to. But we know it’s actually impossible.

Now, Abraham did of course become the founding father of our nation, but are we really as numerous as the stars? It is believed that there are 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (200 billion trillion) stars in the universe. Just a single galaxy has some 100 billion stars. Even if you add up every Jew that ever existed in our 3000-year history, we’ve never even come close to that number! So how did G‑d make a promise that seems so wildly exaggerated?

Rabbi Meir Shapiro, respected founder of the Yeshivah Chachmei Lublin in Poland, answered this question as follows:

A few verses later,2 it becomes clear that the sun only set after this dialogue took place, which means that G‑d was speaking to Abraham when it was still light outside. No wonder he couldn’t see the stars! The radiant sun made it impossible to see a single other star.

In other words, G‑d’s message to Abraham was not that we would be greater than others numerically, but that, like the sun, we would outshine others, regardless of our numbers. All the stars in the universe cannot compete with the great luminary.

To us, quality has always been more important than quantity. We see today quite empirically how smaller is stronger. A little drone can accomplish what a big fighter jet may not be able to do. A smartphone is small enough to fit in your pocket, but it’s got an entire office inside.

Here in South Africa, there is an Afrikaans expression, goedkoop is duurkoop, “cheap is expensive.” If you buy something cheaply and it doesn’t last, you are not getting value for money. In the long run, you will be spending more as you keep replacing the inexpensive item of poor quality and workmanship. But it doesn’t only apply to buying a home, or furniture, etc. It is a philosophy of life. Quality counts.

We Jews have never been into numbers. For us, quality is much more valuable than quantity. We represent no more than 1% of the world’s population, but when it comes to Nobel Prize winners, we can claim over 22% as our own. Israel is a tiny country but has become a global leader in medical and technological advances, shining brightly in the darkness.

So don’t worry about numbers. We’re not into numbers. Never feel depressed about being outnumbered. Moshe Dayan didn’t look at the speedometer and neither should we (metaphorically, that is). We have never taken the speedometer of life too seriously. Statistically, we shouldn’t even exist at all.

We will continue to march to our own beat as we have since the days of Abraham. May we continue to shine in the heavens and on earth. Please G‑d, we will stand out and sparkle materially, spiritually, academically, morally, ethically, and Jewishly, an eternal source of pride to G‑d and to ourselves.