Like the Light of the Moon

In his earlier years, the Maggid of Mezeritch, zy”a, had a friend and chavrusa who was a brilliant scholar. Years later, when the former chavrusa visited the Maggid, he was accorded great honor. The Maggid asked his visitor what he had accomplished during the years they had not seen each other.

“I became proficient in algebra and astronomy,” the former chavrusa replied. He then in turn asked the Maggid what wisdom the latter had acquired in the intervening years.

“None,” the Maggid, in his great humility said. “But I will tell you a parable to explain the difference between us.”

The Maggid told of a king who had two sons. One son was wise and very knowledgeable, and the king married him off to a young woman from a distant land, thinking that the wise son would be able to take care of himself.

The other son was neither wise nor knowledgeable, and so the king decided to marry him off locally and maintain him personally. After all, the king reasoned, how could this son be allowed to fend for himself when he was incapable of achieving anything?

“So it is with me,” the Maggid explained. “I know nothing, so the Ribbono shel Olam has to keep me, so to speak, close to Him.”

Hachodesh hazeh lachem — This month shall be for you the beginning of the months.”

Rashi teaches us this passuk not only teaches us the Nisan must be the first month, but also that the Ribbono shel Olam taught Moshe Rabbeinu the complex halachos of the consecration of the new moon, and through it, the new month.

But it is only the very beginning of what we refer to as Parashas Hachodesh, which is read as maftir this week, that discusses the halachos of kiddush hachodesh.

The rest of these pesukim deal with the halachos of the very first korban Pesach.

Why are these two seemingly separate concepts juxtaposed? Presumably, even if whatever calendar was in place until that point would continue to be kept, the Yom Tov of Pesach could have been observed?

The brachah we recite during Kiddush Levanah says: “To the moon, He said that it should renew itself as a crown of splendor for those borne [by Him]… those who are destined to renew themselves like it, and glorify their Molder. …”

Why, indeed, are we compared the moon?

Unlike the sun, the moon has no light of its own. What we see shining in the sky is actually the reflection of the light of the sun. Depending on how it is aligned with the sun, the moon is either fully visible and appears to be shining strongly on the earth — such as in the middle of the month. Then as the days pass it gets smaller and smaller until it all but disappears — only to begin to grow again in the days that follow.

In addition, there are lunar eclipses — when the earth comes between the sun and the moon, cutting off the moon from receiving the reflecting rays of the sun. There are also dust storms and clouds that can block the earth from seeing the light of the moon.

All the other nations of the world have an identity independent of their conduct and scruples. While they are eventually rewarded for doing good and punished for their misdeeds, the existence of nations are not essentially linked to their relationship with their Creator.

Klal Yisrael is unique among all the nations that our very existence is based on our relationship with Hashem. When we bond with our Creator, and keep the Torah we rise to the greatest heights, when we, chas v’shalom, stray from the right path, we fall so far that it is as if we don’t even exist as a nation.

Like the moon and the sun, our entire “light” is only based on our alignment, our positioning ourselves to face upward toward the Source of light — Hakadosh Baruch Hu. When we fail to fill our hearts with emunah and look to Hashem, we are plunged into darkness.

In addition, when members of Klal Yisrael commit  wrongdoings, it creates a barrier between us and Hashem, causing the spiritual equivalent of  a lunar eclipse — or clouds, sandstorms, and the like.

During Kiddush Levanah, we plea that Hashem should “fill the flaw of the moon, and there be no diminution to it,” and that “the light of the moon be like the light of the sun and the light of the seven days of creation.”

We long for the day when we will be fully, permanently aligned with our Source of light, when at all times we will be filled with ­emunah and bitachon and look only to Hashem to fill our needs. We long for the time when there will be no barriers caused by wrongdoing, only a closeness created by our mitzvos.

May we all merit to achieve this goal.  (Based on a teaching of the Shem MiShmuel)