Perek Shira: The Song of Existence - The Song of the Sun
by Rabbi Shmuel Kraines
The sun says: “The sun and the moon each stood in its place. By the light of Your arrows they shall go forth, by the glow of Your spearhead.” (Chavakuk 3:11)
The sun is a giant sphere of burning hydrogen and helium, comprising 99.85% of the total mass of our solar system. Temperatures at its core can reach 15 million degrees Celsius. Such heat would cause it to explode and scatter, were it not for its immense gravitational pull that holds it together, allowing it to release only moderated heat-energy, which is essential for all life on earth.
Clearly, this massive and brilliant servant of Hashem was created only in order to benefit the relatively diminutive dwellers on earth, primarily mankind. The sun holds the earth in perpetual orbit, and provides for it. It nourishes all earthly life, warms the atmosphere, influences weather patterns, and marks the passage of time. It illuminates the darkness, stimulates the spirit, and gladdens the heart.
Not surprisingly, the sun was the chief object of idol-worship in ancient times. Even kings would prostrate themselves before it each morning. Although idolatry contradicts the very purpose of Creation, which is to reveal Hashem’s presence in His world, He nevertheless showers His kindness upon the world by allowing the sun to shine. And in contrast to the sun-worshipers, the Jewish People rise each morning, some as early as pre-dawn, and bless Hashem, the Fashioner of Luminaries, for shining His goodness daily upon His creations.
Shortly after the Exodus from Egypt, Korach instigated a revolt against Moshe's leadership. The Sages teach that in response to this disgrace of Hashem's righteous servant and prophet, the sun and the moon refused to shine, demanding instead that Hashem mete out justice. Hashem admonished the sun and the moon sternly, “Each day, people throughout the world bow down to you, yet you shine nonetheless and do not protest for the sake of My honor. And now, you protest for the sake of flesh and blood!?”
Every day since, the sun and moon hesitate to go forth and shine. Abiding that lesson, they fear that mankind will become deluded by their light and thereby fail to discern the world’s true Benefactor. Choosing to hide His kindness within nature, Hashem summons forth these luminaries anyway for the well-being of the world, while still preserving the opportunity for those who honestly seek His presence to discover Him.
It is this idea that the sun, which is the primary luminary of the world, sings about each day. It declares that, along with the moon, they both wish to stand still in their places in protest of those who dishonor Hashem by erroneously glorifying them. But, in His largesse, Hashem overlooks His own honor and figuratively employs His “arrows and spears” to command them to come forth and shine.
At dawn, the sun breaks through the darkness, rising steadily, crowning the heavens at its zenith. But then it descends, bowing westward, to the direction of the Divine Presence. As it gradually weakens and then disappears into the horizon, it submits to Hashem, signifying that He is the One and Only Power of the universe.
- Source: Nedarim 39b
*In loving memory of Harav Zeev Shlomo ben Zecharia Leib