The first snow of the winter is always a delight, but not when it arrives in October.

Despondent over the nasty storm, I woke up that morning and ventured out into a street strewn with fallen trees and downed wires. Traffic lights were out of order and streets were slick with ice, but the real surprise came when I discovered our synagogue was without electricity. Without lights, we were hard-pressed to hold morning services. A number of regular attendees arrived and shared my gloom; many left shortly thereafter to pray at home, but several stayed on. We lit candles, donned tefillin and sat down to pray. My gaze wandered about the room, and my spirits slowly lifted. I was enchanted by the quaint scene, the darkened synagogue, flickering flames and heads hunched over the candles reading in the dim light; it was a setting reminiscent of the shtetl.

A warmth spread through me as I surveyed the roomA warmth spread through me as I surveyed the room, because in the darkness I beheld the heartiness of the Jew. It was dark, cold and icy, the synagogue was without heat or lights, yet nothing could stop these Jews from praying to their G‑d. It was morning, and despite the elements, despite the obstacles, these hearty Jews were at synagogue. I realized that the Jew is indeed, as G‑d promised to Abraham, like the stars of the sky.

Piercing the Darkness

Stars are sources of constant light. Even when the veil of darkness is drawn across the sky, the stars continue to shine. We are treated to a glimpse of the star when its light pierces through the veil of darkness and comforts the night sky with its twinkling light. The stars shine all day, but they don’t attract our attention. When the world is awash in the sun’s greater light, the little star is all but invisible. It is only at night, when darkness descends, that the little star displays its enduring strength. It might be small—actually, stars only appear to be small due to their distance from earth, but are in fact quite large—but its illuminative power prevails over the night.

Humanity also boasts proverbial stars. These are the strong souls who, undaunted by challenge, overcome their personal darkness. On a normal morning, when the streets are dry and the lights are on, many Jews attend the synagogue. When raging storms and treacherous roads confine most of us to our homes, the rocklike strength of those undaunted by challenge draws our attention. It is then that these shining stars drive away our gloom, and impart in its stead inspiration and strength.

G‑d’s Promise

Rather than an impediment to light, stars see the darkness as an opportunity to shineThis is indeed what G‑d meant when he told Abraham, “Gaze toward heaven and count the stars—see if you can count them.” And He then said to him, “So (numerous) shall your children be.”1 Science has yet to discover, let alone count and identify, every star. This is because they operate in the distant reaches of darkened galaxies, and the naked eye cannot pierce the vast skies to behold them all.2 Yet, despite the darkness, an occasional star does peek out at us from across the distance. It is for this reason that the star is of so much comfort to us. We are drawn to them because their twinkling light beckons us; they remind us that every challenge can be surmounted, every distance can be traversed and every darkness can be illuminated.

Obstacles as opportunities

Rather than an impediment to light, stars see the darkness as an opportunity to shine. Just like those Jews who prayed in the darkened synagogue, hunched over the dim and flickering light. These Jews are my stars: never daunted by challenge, never overwhelmed by the dark and never afraid of the night. These are the stars, who never allow an obstacle to get in the way of their commitment. These are the stars that inspire us in the night. These are the stars, in whose light we have no reason to fear the dark.3

It was not the candles that enlightened me that cold morning, but the bobbing heads above those candles. In those bobbing heads I saw the stars of which G‑d spoke to Abraham.4