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Beyond Earth

Did you ever gaze at the sky on a clear summer night wondering “how many stars are there?”

Many people consider the number incalculable. In fact, when G-d told Avraham, “Go outside, count the stars; that is how your children will be,” He did not mean there would be that many Jews. Rather G-d meant we would be the type of people willing to attempt to count the seemingly infinite number of stars. Jews will not fear even the most daunting tasks.

The implication of this idea that it is impossible to count the stars is supported by NASA, which claims there are “zillions of stars not even visible to any telescope.” Yet the Talmud notes in a mysterious passage that G-d told us just how many stars there are.

I created 12 constellations (of stars): each of which has 30 chiel, each of those has 30 legions, each of those 30 rahatons, each of those has 30 kartons, each of those has 30 gisteras, and each of those has 365 thousand ten thousands [in it].

Do the math. (12 x 30 x 30 x 30 x 30 x 30 x 365 x 1000 x 10000 = 1,064,340,000,000,000,000)

That’s 1.06434 times 10 to the 18th power. (Approximately a billion times a billion). Modern scientists estimate the number of stars in the Universe to be between 3 X 1016 and 1 X 1022. (My research was based on a brief search on the web).

The Talmud’s number is “right in there” with the best scientific estimates.

Now that’s a pretty good trick if this remark in the Talmud was from an elderly near-sighted rabbi whose lexicon didn't include a word for a number bigger than 10,000 nor the technology to see even a small fraction of those stars, let alone with the naked eye!

But I suppose we shouldn’t be so surprised at all since the Talmud contains information G-d gave to the Jewish people not contained in the written Torah.

Rashi’s comment, “G-d lists and counts the Jewish people like the stars, by name to show His love for us,” is reminiscent of the Psalm that G-d “counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by their names.” If we are finally realizing that G-d really did count the stars, then maybe we should say that our best scientific estimates are right in there with G-d.

Now we can approximate G-d’s count of the starts. May we soon follow G-d’s lead to love our fellow Jews more as He does. His love for each and every single Jew evidenced by the fact that He calls each of us, like the stars, by name.

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