Torah Weekly

For the week ending 5 October 2002 / 29 Tishri 5763

Parshat Bereishet

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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In the beginning, Hashem creates the entire universe, including time itself, out of nothingness. This process of creation continues for six days. On the seventh day, Hashem rests, bringing into existence the spiritual universe of Shabbos, which returns to us every seven days. Adam and Chava - the Human pair - are placed in the Garden of Eden. Chava is enticed by the serpent to eat from the forbidden fruit of the "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil," and in turn gives the fruit to Adam. By absorbing "sin," Adam and Chava render themselves incapable of remaining in the spiritual paradise of Eden and are banished. Death and hard work (both physical and spiritual) now enter the world, together with pain in childbirth. Now begins the struggle to correct the sin of Adam and Chava, which will be the main subject of world history. Cain and Hevel, the first two children of Adam and Chava, bring offerings to Hashem. Hevel gives the finest of his flock, and his offering is accepted, but Cain gives inferior produce and his offering is rejected. In the ensuing quarrel, Cain kills Hevel and is condemned to wander the earth. The Torah traces the genealogy of the other children of Adam and Chava, and the descendants of Cain until the birth of Noach. After the death of Sheis, Mankind descends into evil, and Hashem decides that He will blot out Man in a flood which will deluge the world. However, one man, Noach, finds favor with Hashem.


The Sun And The Moon

"And G-d made two great luminaries" (1:16)

Nothing is more dissimilar than the sun and the moon.

The sun is immense. The interior of the sun could hold over 1.3 million earths. It is incredibly hot. In its core, the temperature is 15,000,000C. The pressure there is 340 billion times earths air pressure at sea level. Every second, 700 million tons of hydrogen are converted into helium ashes. In the process 5 million tons of pure energy is released.

The moon is an inert body, a mere 3,476 kilometers in diameter. It has a maximum surface temperature of 123C, and a minimum surface temperature of -233C.

You could hardly find two objects more different than the sun and the moon, and yet they share a puzzling similarity.

When viewed from the earth, they both seem to be the identical size.

Isnt that strange? That of all the places our planet could be located in space, we just happen to be exactly where the sun and the moon look the same?

In the Talmud (Chullin 60b) Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi points out what seems to be a contradiction in this weeks Torah portion. One verse says "And G-d made two great luminaries." The verse then continues, "the greater luminary to dominate the day, and the lesser luminary to dominate the night." The verse starts with two great luminaries and then only one is great.

Behind the scenes of this seeming contradiction, there is a fascinating story1.

At the dawn of Creation, G-d created the sun and moon of equal size and brightness. The moon said before the Holy One Blessed be He: "Master of the World, is it possible for two kings to use one crown?"

G-d said "Go and diminish yourself."

The Jewish People are compared to the moon. Every month the moon gets smaller and smaller until it disappears completely. And then, seemingly miraculously, it is renewed.

The Jewish People have seen times in their history when they seem to have vanished completely and then, miraculously, we are renewed.

This power of renewal is intrinsic to the Jewish People. For that reason, we count our calendar by the moon. The first mitzvah that the Jewish People received was the sanctification of the moon when G-d gave Moshe the precise measurement of the time of the moons orbit so the Jewish People could calculate for all time the exact beginning of the new month.

The Jewish year is measured by the lunar month. The word for month in Hebrew is chodesh2 which comes from the same root as chadash which means new, since every month the moon is new. It is renewed. The nations of the world mark the passage of time by the cycles of the sun, by the year.

In Hebrew, the word for year is shana which comes from the same root as the word yashan, "old." The sun is without renewal. It is always the same unchanging yellow orb.

We are not the largest of all the nations. In fact, the Torah calls us the smallest. We are the People of the moon. The moon has no light of its own. It is a reflector. And like the moon, the job of the Jewish People is to be a reflector. The reflector in this world of its Creator.

G-ds light is concealed in this world. We dont see it clearly and brightly. Similarly the Jewish People are not recognized as His emissaries. Thus, it is fitting that the moon is small and diminished.

When we look up to the sky, the moon and the sun look the same size to us. We know that one is millions of times the size of the other. But they look same.

Maybe this is a hint. A hint to a time that was. A hint to a time to come. When mashiach comes, the primeval light of Creation will shine again. There will be total clarity. One end of the universe will be visible from the other end.

And then the moon will resume its original radiance and it will shine again as it did at the beginning of time.


1. A word of warning. This story is not allegorical. However, when we talk of the sun and the moon "speaking", it means their essence was expressing itself to the Creator. In human terms this would be called speaking.

2. In English too, the word "month" is related to "moon."

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