Abarbanel on the Parsha

For the week ending 6 July 2024 / 30 Sivan 5784

Kiddush Levanah: Under the Light of the Silvery Moon (Part 4)

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

The blessing for Kiddush Levanah reads: Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who with His utterance created the heavens, and with the breath of His mouth all their legion. A decree and a schedule did He give them that they not alter their assigned task. They are joyous and glad to perform the Will of their Owner – the Worker of truth Whose work is truth. To the moon He said that it should renew itself as a crown of splendor for those borne [by Him] from the womb, those who are destined to renew themselves like it, and to glorify their Molder for the name of His glorious kingdom. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who renews the months.

In its simple understanding Kiddush Levanah gives us the opportunity to draw closer to Hashem by recognizing Him through His wonderous creations. That is whythe Jerusalem Talmud (Tractate Brachot) classifies Kiddush Levanah as being a blessing of praise. Our Sages link it with the other blessings that are recited whenever we are moved by the sight of Hashem’s natural wonders.

There are actually two opinions as to what the Brachah is. The first option is very simple and also very short, “Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who renews the months.” Our Sages, feeling that the concise version of the blessing was not expressive enough, introduced a longer and much more comprehensive blessing. The second version of the blessing is the one that is accepted by all, with some minor emendations depending on each community’s custom.

Rabbi Yosef ben Meir Teomim (1727–1792), was the Chief Rabbi of Frankfurt an der Oder. He was one of the most brilliant Halachic authorities in his generation, authoring several different Halachic works the most famous being the Pri Megadim on the Shulchan Aruch. In another of his works, Eishel Avraham (426:9), Rabbi Yosef Teomim explains that the first part of the blessing is referring, among the other celestial bodies, to the moon. That the moon, like all the other planets and stars, follows exactly Hashem’s command and, by doing so it is demonstrating to us Hashem’s greatness.

There is a very well-known story told about the acclaimed scientist Sir Isaac Newton. One of the projects that the multi-talented Newton worked on was his Universal Theory of Gravity and how it explained the orbits of the various discovered planets at the time. So dear was this project to Newton that he commissioned an exceptionally gifted craftsman to create for him, at great expense, an orrery that sat in pride of place on his desk. An orrery was a mechanical model of the Solar System that showed the relative positions and movements of the planets and moons with the sun at the center. It was made out of polished brass and ivory and it cost him a small fortune. One day a friend of Newton’s came to visit him. His friend was also a scientist but, unlike like Newton who was a devout believer in G-d, his friend was an atheist. On seeing the orrery the friend asked Newton who was the artist who created such a breathtaking model. Newton lackadaisically replied, “No one.” His friend, assuming that Newton hadn’t heard him clearly asked him again who had made it. Again, Newton answered, “No one.” And then he added, “The pieces just fell into place all by themselves.” His friend in exasperation testily retorted, “Isaac, you must take me for a fool! This piece was obviously fashioned by one of the most talented and creative artists alive today! How can you possibly expect me to believe that no one was involved in its creation?!”

Newton looked up and told him, “My friend, this orrery is nothing more than a simple model of the planets and, yet, you accept that it could not have come into being by itself. That it had to have been formed by one of the most talented people alive today. What, then, do say about the original that this orrery is modeled on? Do you really believe that it just appeared out of nowhere? Is it really conceivable that it wasn’t designed and created by the greatest Artisan of them all?”

Not only do the planets and the stars continuously do the bidding of Hashem, never veering away from His command, but, as the blessing describes, “they are joyous and glad to perform the Will of their Owner.”

Because there is no greater joy in this world than doing Hashem’s Will.

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