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Our Sacred Moon

03/29/2022 08:17:02 AM


Rabbi Ranon Teller

Our Sacred Moon:
Our Deep Lunar Connection

The Jewish people are deeply connected to the moon far more than the sun. The moon is romantic and soft. The sun is aggressive and harsh. The moon waxes and wanes. The sun stays the same. Moonlight, moonglow. Sunburn, sun stroke. We gaze at the moon and we are basked in romance. We hide from the sun and lather on the sunblock because the solar rays can cause serious damage to our skin. I could go on, but you get the idea.

We, the Jewish people are connected to the moon. We are connected with the moon so deeply, it’s almost like the moon is our alter ego. We are so connected with the moon that we create our lunar calendar in sync with the moon’s journey around the earth.

How did it come to be that we are so connected with the moon? The Torah reports that “in the beginning”, when God created the earth, God created two large celestial bodies, the sun and the moon. Our rabbi’s ask, wait a minute, the sun is bigger and the moon is smaller? Why does it say two large bodies? The rabbis answer the question with a story. In the beginning, the sun and the moon were in fact both created the same size. The sun was OK with it, but the moon complained and said, “The two of us can’t be same size! That doesn’t make any sense! You can’t have 2 of us in charge of one sky!” The moon said to God, “One of us has to rule and the other has to be smaller!” So, what did God do? God said, “OK, moon, thank you for raising the issue, I’m going to make you smaller.” But, as a consolation, God said, “I’ll tell you what, moon, I’m going to give you some consolation prizes. I’m going to give you the beautiful stars in the sky – and I’m going to have the Jewish people be connected to you. And by your light, they will count all the days and years and festivals of their lives.

Our sages take the interpretation of the moon story one level deeper.

Our rabbis ponder that while the moon was complaining to God about sharing the spotlight, the sun was quiet and content. So, that’s a nice, pleasant quality. Why are we connected with the complaining moon? Why aren’t we connected to the sun who was submissive, polite and obedient? Because that’s not who we are. Our ideal relationship with God isn’t really about serenity, contentment and submission. Our name is the Children of Yisrael, which can be translated as God-wrestlers. We wrestle with our faith. We wrestle with the complexities and struggles of the human condition. The sun didn’t struggle at all – it just stood there… silent. Yes, the moon was complaining, but at least it was in dialogue with God. At least it was in a relationship with God.  

Just like the moon, our relationship with God complex. Sometimes we’re acquiescent and sometimes we complain! But, it’s imperative that we approach God in genuine dialogue. It’s up to create genuine relationship with God. As a people, we approach God in protest of the tragedies of war and hate in the world. We complain: “God! If you are really in charge of the world, if you are truly all-knowing and all-powerful, why is there pain and suffering in the world that you created. The Jewish path is about asking serious questions. Why are we here? What is my purpose?  Master of the Universe, how can you just sit there and let all this happen? It’s up to us to take all that energy and do some good in the world – to act with loving-kindness, to work toward peace, and to advocate for those who don’t have a voice.

We all experience light and darkness, success and failure, faith and distance, good days and bad days, victories and tragedies – ups and downs. This whole journey is represented by our moon. Each and every day, the moon expands or contracts – waxes and wanes.

Ribono shel Olam, inspire us toward genuine dialogue and prayer that will lead us toward action. May the hope that we receive from the moon, inspire us toward genuine prayer and deliberate action. And when we walk out of Your sanctuary and into the world, a world desperate for healing and peace, may we bring the tension and harmony of the complicated, beautiful moon. And together we say: Amen. 

Mon, September 25 2023 10 Tishrei 5784