Abarbanel on the Parsha

For the week ending 29 June 2024 / 23 Sivan 5784

Kiddush Levanah: Under the Light of the Silvery Moon (Part 3)

by Rabbi Reuven Lauffer
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“My walk on the moon lasted three days. My walk with G-d will last forever.”

Charles Duke – Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 16

Kiddush Levanah begins with the first six verses of Tehillim 148: “Praise G-d! Praise Hashem from the heavens, praise Him in the heights. Praise Him, all His angels, praise Him all His legions. Praise Him sun and moon, praise Him all bright stars. Praise Him highest heavens, and the waters that are above the heavens. Let them praise the Name of Hashem, for He commanded and they were created. And He established them for ever and ever, He issued a decree that will not change.” These verses of Tehillim 148 were chosen to begin Kiddush Levanah because they describe how the heavens – including the moon – praise Hashem.

The Rabbis explain that the source of all praises to Hashem are in the heavens. The praises continuously echo throughout the entire world, but only the Tzaddikim are capable of hearing them. Because only the Tzaddikim truly listen.

The Chazon Ish used to go for a walk along the same route every day. While he was walking, he would learn. One day, he was accosted by an older man, who did not have any idea of whom he was talking to, and accused the Chazon Ish of wasting time. He shouted at him to stop wandering around and to learn something. And if he didn’t know how to learn, to say some Tehillim! The Chazon Ish didn’t answer him and the man went on his way. The next day, exactly the same thing happened. This time, the Chazon Ish asked the man what he wanted him to do with his time. So, again, he told him to recite Tehillim. After that, the Chazon Ish changed his route in order to not upset the man any further.

One day, a member of the man’s family became sick and they advised the man to go to get a blessing from the saintly Chazon Ish. The man set off to the famous address. On arriving and seeing that the man he had accosted was none other than the Chazon Ish himself, he fainted! When he came to, he immediately started begging for forgiveness. Over and over again he asked, until finally he fell silent. At that point, the Chazon Ish told him that he had nothing to ask forgiveness for. He said it was a splendid idea to say Tehillim and that he had incorporated it into his day. Great people have no problem listening and learning from others. They are able to hear what others do not hear.

The last of the verses recited ends with the words, “He issued a decree that will not change.” Rashi explains that since the time of their creation, the sun and the moon have done exactly as Hashem commanded them to do. The sun brings light to the daytime and the moon illuminates the night. Neither one of them ever tried to encroach on the dominion of the other because it is not possible to dispute Hashem’s decree. Being totally aware that it is Hashem Who defines their qualities, meant that it was ridiculous for them to harbor any feelings of jealousy. Recognizing that everything comes from Hashem means that there is nothing to argue about.

In describing the structure of the word “machloket – argument,” Rabbi Yishayahu Horowitz, Shnei Luchot Habrit, points out that the first letter ‘mem’ has a tiny opening, which represents a still small and narrow disagreement. The opening of the next letter ‘chet’ is wider, and it represents the idea that the rift is growing bigger. The ‘lamed’ is the tallest letter, towering above the other letters, and ‘kuf’ drops downwards. All these letters suggest that if the machloket is not immediately contained, it will take on a life of its own, growing bigger and larger, engulfing everyone in its wake. And then finally, the last letter ‘taf,’ standing securely on its own two feet, symbolizes the devastating durability of machloket.

Rabbi Horowitz said that the easiest way to defuse a machloket is right at the very beginning, before it grows out of hand, while it is still only a small opening in the ‘mem.’

But, when two antagonists incorporate into their lives the reality that only Hashem is in charge, the acrimonious balloon of machloket deflates and becomes nothing of consequence.

To be continued…

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