Our Torah portion this week tells of the origins of the Jewish people in God’s call to Abraham and Sarah. In the story, God blesses Abraham, saying, “I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, then your offspring too can be counted.” As we know, this promise did not come true—at least in a way that makes any literal sense. Had God, instead, pledged that four thousand years later, not only would those descendants still exist but they would still be telling the stories and grappling with the teachings of this text, it would have perhaps been even more astonishing.

Each week in Torah study, we continue to find compelling questions in the stories of those whose lives were profoundly different from our own in so many ways and, yet, convey the common challenges of human existence. I have never ceased to be amazed that coming back to the same texts year after year always produces new ideas and insights. Israeli writer, Amos Oz, and his daughter, Fania Oz-Salzburger, co-authored a wonderful book, Jews and Words, in which they argued that Jewishness comes to us through “textlines” rather than bloodlines. To be a Jew is to be engaged in that millennia-long conversation, a true blessing, for which I am continually grateful.

–Rabbi Drorah Setel