In the beginning of Parshas Bereshis, the Torah says that the Ribono shel Olam created two big luminaries in the heavens—the sun to rule by day and the moon to rule at night. There is a well-known teaching of Chazal (Chulin 60b) that the moon complained to the Ribono shel Olam that it is not practical “for two kings to share one crown.” The Talmud says that the Almighty’s response to the moon was “You are right. Go ahead and make yourself smaller.” As a result, the moon downsized. It made itself much smaller and became the “smaller luminary that ruled at night.” Not only did it make itself much smaller, but originally, at the time of Creation, it had its own source of light. After downsizing, the moon accepted a status of only being able to reflect the light of the sun, forgoing being a source of light on its own.
The Gemara says that the moon felt bad about its diminished status, and therefore the Almighty consoled it, saying, “Don’t feel bad about being the ‘small luminary’ because Tzadikim will be called ‘small’ as we see Yaakov is called ‘Katan,’ Shmuel is called ‘Katan,’ and Dovid is called ‘Katan.’” Then the Ribono shel Olam consoled the moon even further. The Medrash says, “Since this luminary diminished herself to rule at night, I decree that she shall be accompanied by innumerable stars and galaxies.” The moon received a consolation prize of many billions of stars. When the moon becomes visible at night, the stars become visible as well.
The question must be asked: Where do we ever find that the Ribono shel Olam punishes someone and then seemingly reconsiders and says, “You know, I feel bad that I am punishing you, so I will give you a consolation prize to compensate you for the punishment.” The moon acted improperly by complaining about the two co-rulers. Hashem commanded her to minimize herself. The Ribono shel Olam is not a parent who has second thoughts – “Maybe I punished my child too severely so I am now going to give him a treat.” The Ribono shel Olam does not act like that. What He does is Just. If it is proper that the moon had to make itself smaller, then there was no need for any consolation prize!
Rav Leibel Heiman offers an interesting observation in his sefer Chikrei Lev: The Almighty told the moon to make itself smaller. How much smaller? He left that up to the moon. The moon did not need to reduce itself to a fraction of what the sun is. The moon could have said, “Okay. Three percent. Five percent. Ten percent.” The sun is so many times bigger than the moon. In addition, who said the moon had to give up its own source of light? The moon could have even reduced itself by fifty percent but held onto its own source of light. Becoming merely a reflection of the sun was not part of Hashem’s instruction. That was not part of the punishment.
When the moon greatly reduced its size and changed its entire nature—going far beyond what was decreed upon it—the Ribono shel Olam saw a tremendous teshuva in that.
We are talking about the moon, but this is a metaphor. This is a lesson for all of us. It is a lesson that when we do something wrong, real teshuva is demonstrating our sincere regret by doing much more than we need to do. If someone insults another person or hurts the person’s feelings, he needs to apologize. “I’m sorry.” That is required. But when a person really tries to make it up to the other person and goes out of his way to demonstrate his sincere regret, that is a true teshuva.
The Ribono shel Olam provided all this consolation by saying that Yaakov, Shmuel and Dovid are all called Katan and by providing billions of stars, because the moon’s action demonstrated tremendous contrition. “Ribono shel Olam, You were right. That was no way for me to talk!” To prove it, the moon goes lifnim m’shuras haDin—so much further than was necessary. The moon was rewarded with consolation prizes for that sincere teshuva!
The Garments of Adam and Chava Were Made from the Skin of the Nachash
The pasuk says that when the Nachash (snake) seduced Adam and Chava into eating from the Etz HaDa’as, they realized they were naked, and “G-d made for them garments of skin and dressed them.” (Bereshis 3:21) The Medrash says that these garments of skin came from the Nachash. The Ribono shel Olam skinned the Nachash (which was a huge animal), took his hide and made it into clothing for Adam and Chava. What is this Medrash trying to teach us?
These are metaphors. Chazal say that jealousy prompted the Nachash to try to entice Adam and Chava to eat from the Tree of Knowledge and change the world. Rashi quotes the Medrash that the Nachash observed them engaging in marital relations and he lusted for Chava. He was jealous of Adam and hatched this plot to bring them down. Jealousy was the root cause that prompted the Nachash to change the world.
What caused the Nachash’s jealousy? He saw them engaging in private activity that is supposed to remain private between a man and a woman. He looked where he was not supposed to look, and he wanted what he was not supposed to want. The root of Midas HaKinah (the Attribute of Jealousy) is that someone looks where he is not supposed to look, and as a result, wants that which is really off limits to him. If someone restricts his eyes and his thoughts to his own four amos (cubits), there is no jealousy. That is the way it is.
I see my friend or my neighbor driving a better car. I want that car. I see that my friend remodeled his kitchen. I need to remodel my kitchen. He has granite counter tops. I also want granite counter tops. Why are you going around looking at his kitchen? His kitchen is his kitchen! Your kitchen is your kitchen. Maybe you can’t help seeing a car. But kinah stems from me looking into the private affairs of someone else where I have no business looking.
This is perhaps why a famous Gemara in Maseches Taanis (8a) equates the Ba’al Lashon HaRah to the Nachash. The Gemara asks what pleasure does either get from their destructive actions? Lashon HaRah is also an aveira of revealing information which should be hidden. What is Lashon HaRah? I know something about someone that others do not know. I spread it. Again, I am looking at that which should remain hidden. I see it and I share it with others. It is the same aveira as the Nachash—looking where you should not look, wanting what you should not want, and going where you do not belong.
The Tolner Rebbe explains the reason why the Ribono shel Olam punished the Nachash by taking its skin and making garments of hide for Adam and Chava. What is skin? Skin is the most basic covering of a being. It keeps hidden that which should be hidden. The Nachash failed to understand that. There are things that should remain closed, should remain behind the screen, behind the skin. They should be hidden. Do not look where you are not supposed to look.
By taking the skin of the Nachash, the Ribono shel Olam was teaching us that this Nachash did not respect the privacy of a human being and looked where he should not look. As a result, the Ribono shel Olam took off his skin—uncovered him—and used that skin to cover the human beings.
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Edited by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Bereshis is provided below:
- # 026 – Adoption: Problems and Solutions
- # 068 – Artificial Insemination
- # 117 – Inducing Labor: A viable option?
- # 164 – Weddings in Shuls: Is there a Problem?
- # 210 – Is Marriage a Mitzvah?
- # 254 – Truth Tellings and Shidduchim
- # 300 – A Mamzer’s Obligation in Mitzvos
- # 344 – Marriage and the Birchas Airusin
- # 388 – The “Kedushai Ketanah” Controversy
- # 432 – Choices in Marriage Partners
- # 476 – Melacha of Planting
- # 520 – Kavod and Oneg Shabbos
- # 564 – You and Your Wife – Ishto Kegufo
- # 608 – The Tefilah of Modeh Ani
- # 652 – The Tefilah of Asher Yatzar
- # 696 – The Bracha on the Havdala Candle
- # 740 – When Exactly Does Shabbos Start?
- # 784 – The Beautiful Essrog – How Much More?
- # 828 – The Baal Teshuva and Pirya Ve’Rivya
- # 872 – Marrying Someone With The Same Name As Your Mother
- # 916 – Not Having Children?
- # 959 – The Case of the Mixed Up Wedding Ring
- #1003 – The Case of the Missing Shabbos Bathroom Tissue
- #1047 – Mogen Avos on Friday Night – When and Why?
- #1090 – Bracha on Havdalah Candle: Before or After?
- #1133 – Bracha of ELokai Neshama She’Naasaata Be
- #1176 – Chupa: Inside or Outside? In a Shul or Not In A Shul?
- #1220 – Forgetting Mashiv HaRuach on Friday Night
- #1264 – Can Women Drink from the Wine of Havdala
- #1308 – Can You Make Kiddush for Someone If It Is Not Shabbos for You?
- #1352 – Is It a Mitzva for a Man to Get Married?
- #1396 – Is a Person with a Hereditary Genetic Disease Obligated to Have Children?
- #1440 – Is This The Year That You Are Going To Be Maavir Sedra Properly?
- #1484 The Bracha of Borei MeOrei HaAish
A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.