There is something special about the stars.
Lightyears away, we gaze at them in wonder, and they captivate our imagination.
In our colloquial speech, as well, a star denotes something or someone unique or special.
Five-star, superstar, starstruck, starry-eyed, lucky star, wish upon a star, shining star – few words in our dictionary have such a positive connotation.
The reverse is true about the dust of the earth. No one stares at the dust in wonder. Referring to something as “dust of the earth” is hardly a compliment, and I would avoid staying at a five-dust hotel!
Yet, in this week’s Torah portion the Jewish people are referred to both as the stars in the sky and the dust of the earth.
A star may be awesome, but it is beyond our grasp. A star may shine bright, but it shines alone.
The dust of the earth is real and tangible. And while one speck is inconsequential, collectively it makes up the very terra firma that allows us to function and grounds us in reality.
This is the lesson for the Jewish people. Each individual is encouraged to shine bright – using his or her individual talents to illuminate the universe. At the same time, we can never forget that only together can we make concrete, solid contributions to the world.
We need the pride of the shining stars to know we have something unique to offer, and the humility of the lowly earth not to let us get carried away with ourselves.
When you feel down and low, remember you are a star, and when you start to become haughty, remember humanity is nothing but a product of dust, and to dust we shall return.
So in the words of the popular Smash Mouth song – “Hey now, you’re an all-star, get your game on, go play.” But it doesn’t hurt to remember that you aren’t the only bright light in the firmament.