In the Little Shtetl of Vaysechvoos: The Mystery of the Stars
It was evening in Vaysechvoos. Young Perchik stared and stared at the sky. The vastness of the black and white speckled blanket which stretched beyond his home was more than even his eleven-year-old imagination could comprehend.
Mama, Mama, I have an important question!” announced Perchik as he burst into the kitchen where his mother was cleaning the dishes from the evening meal. Chaikeh Lishinsky was weary, but at the sight of her dear Perchik her eyes brightened. Tired as she was, Chaikeh never grew impatient with her son’s insatiable curiosity. Indeed, his mind did not seem to need much rest.
“Mama, what are stars?”
“You know what stars are, Perchik. They’re the lights in the sky!”
“But what are they Mama, and how did they get up there? And how high are they? What else is up above besides God? And if stars are lights, why are they so different from candles? Candlelight is yellow. Starlight is white or blue. If I put a candle way up in the sky, would the light change colors?”
Chaikeh knew that she couldn’t begin to be able to answer her son’s questions, at least not before bedtime. She reached out and touched his face in the loving way only a mother can and said, “After you’re asleep, I’ll ask your father. He knows everything.”
Chaikeh hoped that her husband, Reb Meyer, would indeed have the answers. She regarded him as one of the wisest men in Vaysechvoos, and yet she realized that it might be necessary to consult the sage of Vaysechvoos on such matters as these.
Once Chaikeh heard the gentle rhythm of Perchik’s breathing, she prepared Meyer for the onslaught of questions he would face come morning. With precision she repeated: “How did the stars getup there? How high up are they? And what else is there besides God? What makes them different from candles?”
Her memory would have done credit to a scribe. Meyer listened and responded only by stroking his beard. To fill the silence, and also because she too was somewhat curious, Chaikeh offered her own suggestions.
“Maybe the Almighty threw the stars out there just in time for travelers to see where they were going, my dear husband.”
Chaikeh knew from her sister’s husband’s brother who once heard from a sailor that stars were used to guide travelers.
“Or maybe,” she said dreamily, “the night sky is just a big black blanket with holes poked in it so that we see glimpses of heaven’s glory. Or perhaps the sky is like a big mirror and what we call stars are really reflections of all the little villages across the earth, even Vaysechvoos.”
While Meyer continued to listen, he was still silently stroking his beard, and so his sleepy wife drifted off and dreamed that she was an angel whose job it was to keep the stars polished with a special cloth that could make anything it touched shiny and bright.
Morning came and Perchik sat with his father as Chaikeh cooked up some eggs and put out the freshly baked bread.
“My son,” said Meyer, “I wish to explain to you about the stars in the sky.”
With that, Meyer opened up the Chumash and read aloud,
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep …. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness …. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.”
His father turned the pages to the Writings and continued to read:
“Praise ye the Lord …. He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.”
Perchik looked puzzled as his father continued, “If you want to know about a saddle, my son, you go and talk to the saddlemaker. If you want to learn about trousers you go to Hershel the Tailor. And if you want to know about the stars, go ask the Almighty. He is the One who fashioned them. Keep looking at the stars, Perchik, and ask the One who made them your questions. As the psalmist said,
“…for he [the Lord] commanded, and they were created.”
“He will make a great light in your heart to help you understand the stars in the sky.”
Perchik nodded solemnly at his father’s answer and Reb Meyer’s wife smiled and wiped a tear from her eye. Truly her Meyer was one of the wisest men in Vaysechvoos.
Director of Communications, Missionary
Susan Perlman is one of the co-founders of Jews for Jesus. Susan is the associate executive director of Jews for Jesus and also director of communications for the organization. She also serves as the editor in chief of ISSUES, their evangelistic publication for Jewish seekers. She left a career track in New York City to help launch Jews for Jesus in San Francisco in the early 1970s. See more here.