The shiur this week has been dedicated by Dennis and Robin Berman of Potomac, Maryland in memory of Robin’s parents, Sara bat Yehuda v Malka and Nachum ben Yisrael v Sara. May the Torah learning be in their zchut. Thank you very much!
Our Parsha lists the many obligatory sacrifices offered in the Bais HaMikdash during the holidays, with those of Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh included as well.
On each of the holidays, it was necessary to bring a goat as a sin-offering. The description of the Korban Chatos offered on Rosh Chodesh differs from the rest. While on each of the holidays the goat is ofered “L’Chaper Aleichem” – “An atonement for you”, the sacrifice of Rosh Chodesh is: “U’Se’ir Izim Echad L’Chatos L’Hashem…..”, as if it atones for a misdeed of G-d.
Rashi cites the Talmud’s explanation: “Bring a Kapparah for Me, for shrinking the moon.”
This idea demands clarification. G-d does not sin, and certainly requires no atonement.
In our shiur this week, we will explain the disappearance of the moon, its relationship to the Jewish people, and its allusion to the future redemption.
“Rebbi Shimon ben Pazi asked: It is written ‘And G-d made the two great lights…’, yet it is also written ‘the bigger light….and the smaller light’ [Breishis 1,16]”
“Said the moon before G-d: Master of the universe, can two kings share one crown?”
“‘Go, and make yourself smaller’, G-d responded.”
“For saying a sensible matter I need to make myself smaller?”
“Go, and rule both day and night.”
“To what advantage? Of what benefit is a candle in the sunlight?”
“Go, and Israel will count through you both days and years.”
“The daylight is also for the counting of the seasons, as is written, ‘and they will be for signs and for seasons….’ [B’reishis, ibid.].”
“Go, and the righteous will be called in your name: Ya’akov HaKatan, Shmuel HaKatan, David HaKatan.”
“He [G-d] saw that the moon was not appeased.”
Said HaKadosh Baruch Hu: Bring a Kapparah for me, for shrinking the moon….” (Chulin 60b)
When analyzing the days of creation, we find this: Hashem has an initial plan that does not materialize precisely as designed. For instance, on day one, G-d has in mind a world of Midas HaDin, yet He subsequently reverts to a mixture of justice and mercy. On day two, creation is left uncompleted, and the split between heaven and earth leaves a world in disarray. This theme repeats itself throughout Ma’aseh B’reishis.
The lights of creation allude to illumination of the spirit, basking in a spiritual countenance beyond the horizon of mortal man. Though these lights give direction to our world, their true benefit cannot be grasped in the modern world, for the barrier of a corporeal existence clouds our vision.
The world was initially created to be One, the unity and exclusivity of the One G-d and One truth. But until the time of messianic revelation, this unity remains concealed.
Just as the moon, the light of truth slowly wanes and diminishes, disappearing for a time in the black of night.
The moon voices the complaint of a physical existence, cognizant of the one truth, but unable to actualize its potential. The moon longs to grow, striving to reach the star-lit heavens.
Hashem teaches it the lesson of true growth.
Greatness means making yourself smaller.
It is darkness that portends of the coming dawn.
Certainly, G-d never sins, nor does He require atonement. Yet, in a sense, so long as the truth remains hidden, G-d and His creation are incomplete.
It is the Korban Chatos of Rosh Chodesh, the sacrifice offered as the invisible moon is resurrected that makes the world whole once again.
Creation is the revelation of G-dly characteristics. While the positive attributes of G-d cannot be grasped by mortals, the unity of existence can be understood. This unity is achieved when man becomes aware that no power exists other than the will of G-d. The negation of every alternative is therefore man’s primary function in life.
This physical planet is not the totality of existence. While reality occupies a different dimension, this world is a mere negative image of the truth. Although man cannot relate to G-d directly, he understands the materialistic aspect of life all too well. His subsequent recognition that neither natural occurrence nor human intervention have the substantive power to sway G-d’s Hand is the path that leads to truth.
The moon understands this aim of creation. This unity of G-d that is the focus of existence is the revelation of G-d’s dominion, Malchus. It is this particular characteristic that marks G-d’s presence in this world. Hence, the moon objects: ‘Can two kings share one crown?’
Malchus demands exclusivity. The unity of Hashem means more than recognizing that there is only one G-d. Rather, it reflects the idea that there is nothing else in existence of structure or substance.
The very concept of ‘two’ is a repudiation of this idea, and for this reason, the world as we know it, existence as an independent entity, is a challenge to G-d’s creation.
This is the argument of the moon.
G-d’s answer is this: If you hope to recognize One, make yourself smaller.
True, this world stands in contrast to a unified existence, but only when taken at face value. The subsequent disavowal by man of his physical side, and the rejection of its signifigance, puts the world back in its proper place, an element of G-d’s creation.
Every aspect of life is created with an inborn defect, and this blemish reflects itself every day of creation. Whether it be the shrinking of the moon; the earth that cannot produce trees of the right taste; or the two-sided man who is separated into independent beings, each day brings to light the inherent fault of an existence removed from the Divine.
This is the solution: The invisible moon can function in both day and night, grabbing a hold on the totality of existence.
Ultimately, it is this idea that finally appeases the moon. Though Hashem needs no atonement, the sacrifice offered by Klal Yisrael on this day brings the world back to its beginning, closer to its goal.
Of course, the moon doesn’t talk.
The conversation of creation is the way man relates to different aspects of life, the lesson he learns from the varied elements.
The sun and moon parallel two ways of relating to the Divine, the blinding light of pure intellect, or the devoted spirituality and piety of the heart.
The intellect can grasp concepts of a higher dimension, an existence above the petty concerns of man’s individual identity. The emotions of the heart magnify man’s sense of self, and man feels a sense of personal achievement in his service of G-d.
Man has the ability to connect with his Creator, yet this can be achieved in two ways; the positive accomplishment of outstanding activity, or the reflective subtlety of a self-critical eye.
In a perfect world, Mussar would be superfluous, for man’s every thought and deed would naturally mirror the will of G-d. Man’s sense of self would not threaten the unity of creation, for the overwhelming light of G-d would overpower all of existence.
But in a world that lies in disrepair, it is man’s overindulged ego that conceals his recognition of the truth. It is the minimizing of this distorted perspective that is fundamental to our success.
Rather than the grandiose design of those who hope to save the entire world, Klal Yisrael aims to emulate the modest nature of the moon, reflecting the light of another. It is this humility that is man’s true greatness, paving the way for the ultimate renewal of Heaven’s domain.
“…and to the moon He said: that it should renew itself as a crown of glory for those carried from the womb, those who are destined to renew themselves like it, and to glorify their Creator by the name of His honored kingdom….” (from the Kiddush Levanah prayers)
JerusalemViews, Copyright (c) 1999 by Rabbi Heshy Grossman and Project Genesis, Inc.