As the new “non-Jewish” New Year approaches, I thought I’d use this as an opportunity to explore the bias we Jews have developed against the Sun and Solar Time.
It all starts with the Midrash explaining the relative size of the moon visa vi the Sun:
R. Simeon b. Pazzi pointed out a contradiction [between verses]. One verse says, And God made the two great lights, and immediately the verse continues, The greater light…and the lesser light. The moon said unto the Holy One, blessed be He, “Sovereign of the Universe! Is it possible for two kings to wear one crown?” He answered, “Go then and make thyself smaller”. “Sovereign of the Universe!” cried the moon, “because I have suggested that which is proper must I then make myself smaller?” He replied, “Go, and thou wilt rule by day and by night.” “But what is the value of this?” cried the moon. “Of what use is a lamp in broad daylight?” He replied. “Go. Israel shall reckon by thee the days and the years.” “But it is impossible,” said the moon, “to do without the sun for the reckoning of the seasons, as it is written, And let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and for years.” “Go.The righteous shall be named after thee as we find, Jacob the Small, Samuel the Small, David the Small.” Talmud, Hulin 60b. and for more detailed treatment see http://www.js.emory.edu/BLUMENTHAL/moonmidrash.html#1
So size does matter… and we Jews, the eternal underdogs.. the start-up nation.. the David versus their Goliath.. are to be compared to the moon. Not only is the moon smaller then the Sun, but it is also more dynamic… it waxes and wanes. You can never count the moon out. Like the remnant of Israel (sharit yis- rael Micha 2:12), the light of the moon may disappear, but it will surely be reborn (molad).
Here is the blessing that Jews say once a (lunar) month on the first appearence of the first sliver of the moon.. Birkat (kiddush) HaLavana:
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who created the heavens by Your command and their entire host by Your mere word. You have subjected them to fixed laws and time, that they not deviate from their set function. They are glad and happy to do the will of their Creator, the true Author, whose achievement is truth. He ordered the moon to renew itself as a glorious crown for those he sustained from birth, likewise will they be renewed in the future, and worship their Creator for His glorious majesty. Blessed are You, Lord, who renews the months.
Blessed is your Maker; blessed is He who formed you; blessed is your Creator; blessed is your Master. Just as I leap toward you but cannot touch you, so may all my enemies be unable to touch me harmfully. May there fall upon them terror and dread; by the great [strength] of Your arm let them be still as a stone. As a stone let them be still by Your arm’s great [strength]; may dread and terror upon them fall.
Say three times:
דוד David, King of Israel, is living and enduring.
The following greeting is exchanged three times:
שלום Peace unto y O U . The other responds: Unto you peace.
Say the following line three times:
סמן May there be a good omen and good mazal for us and for all Israel. Amen.
Notice how the first part of the blessing refers to the “heavens” (sun and stars) as unchanging, immutable and “them” .. while the second part of the blessing references …. in a much more personal and warm manner, the renewal of the moon (who is, afterall the subject of the blessing) and the special relationship with the people governed by the rule of the moon “those he sustained from birth”.. the Jews. Notice also the emphasis on the protection of the vulnerable Jews from their enemies “them” and the reference to David (sic the small)…
But enough with lunar power and the Jews (aka the Lunacy of Hope).. what about the sun and the 365 day static year it represents and whose new year we are about to celebrate.
Remember this one about the significance of 613 (Tarya’g) commandments? “There are 365 negative commandments, corresponding to the number of days in a solar year and 248 positive commandments, ascribed to the number of bones and significant organs in the human body” Babylonian Talmud, Makkot 23b-24a
What’s up with that? All of a sudden our Rabbis are referencing the solar 365 day year? Well fortunately, this past April 8, 2009 we had a once in 28 year opportunity to go to the top of our roof and bless the sun (Birchat HaChama).
Here’s a few excerpts from that blessing:
For HASHEM God is a Sun and a shield; HASHEM bestows grace and honor, He does not withhold good from them that walk uprightly.
PSALMS 72: 5 יִ They shall fear You so long as the Sun and the moon endure, throughout all generations.
PSALMS 75: 2 ה We have acknowledged You, HASHEM, we have acknowledged, and Your name is near; they tell of Your wondrous works.
MALACHI 3: 20 וְ But unto you who fear My name the Sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings; and you shall go forth and be fattened as calves in the stable.
PSALMS 97: 6 ה The heavens declared His righteousness; and all the peoples saw His glory.
For the full text go to: http://www.kehillaton.com/en/docs/birkat_hachama.pdf
Clearly the Sun and the Stars are compared to God and the unforgiving laws of nature/creation. This is God as Judge and once in 28 years sounds about right to me! For we Jews, built from the Crooked Timber of Humanity (Isaiah Berlin)… I’ll follow the moon!
Which brings this little rant to a close.. with a parting shot at the worst manifestation of solar power… namely the sign of the Zodiac (Hebrew – Mazal-Mazalot plural). My opinion of the Zodiac and Horoscopes (and fate and destiny.. for that matter) is pretty straightforward… it’s not for us! Or as Rabbi Yochanan says, “The stars do not influence Israel.’ Ein Mazal L‘Israel there are other opinions..(Shabat 155b-156a) but it’s my blog…
So… to summarize… we Jews are like the Moon, we wax and wane, bob and weave… just when you think we’re going to disappear.. we are reborn. We depend on the merciful God to sustain us (The God of rightiousness and judgement… not so much) . We’re made of blood and bones and we like to think positive. Yes, there are immutable rules and cycles and even a bunch of negative commandments (“you can’t do that!”).. and yes.. there is a God of Justice too… and we could even sneak a peak at our Horoscope.. but for the most part we like JFK say: ‘Other people, ‘see things and say: why – but I dream things that never were and say: why not.’ http://www.jfklibrary.org/Historical+Resources/Archives/Reference+Desk/Quotations+of+Robert+F.+Kennedy.htm
Shana Hama Tova and Mazalot Tovot!