January 21, 2021 / 8 Shevat, 5781 • Parshat Bo
Issue 650
Dedicated in loving memory of Mrs. Miriam Friedman

If you were sending off your child on a long, lonely, and dangerous

journey, what would your encouraging words be to him or her?

What essential message would you want to give your child

for the road ahead?

The Jewish people finally left Egypt after decades of back-breaking

servitude. As they became a freed people, they were given their

first mitzvah to observe as a nation. You'd assume this mitzvah would

be of great importance, something cosmic. Perhaps it would define

their character as exceptionally moral people or demonstrate the

depth of their faith in G-d.

Instead, they were commanded to consecrate new months based

on the rebirth of the moon’s sightings. Through the moon, we

establish our calendars, our holidays and traditions—a key feature

of Jewish life. Nevertheless, shouldn’t this first mitzvah be more

integral to the essence of who we are?

But perhaps the moon more than anything defines us as a nation.

The Zohar teaches:

The people of Israel set their calendar by the

moon, because they are the moon of the world. Midrash Rabbah

explains: The moon begins to shine on the 1st of the month and

increases in luminance till the 15th day, when her orb becomes full;

from the 15th till the 30th day, her light wanes, on the 30th it is not

seen at all. With Israel too, there were 15 generations from Abraham to Solomon. Abraham began to shine… Jacob added to this light… When Solomon appeared, the moon’s orb was full… Henceforth the kings

began to diminish … With Zedekiah [when the Holy Temple was

destroyed] the light of the moon dimmed entirely.

We had just been slaves for decades in Egypt, beaten, tortured

and hated. Despite our oppression, rather than breaking

us as a people, we emerged; crushed perhaps, but never

broken. As the persecutions increased, the Jewish heart

and soul grew stronger.

As we prepared to take our first steps as a free nation on a

journey that would stretch millennia, scattering us to the far

corners of the world to become a light unto the nations, G-d

impressed upon our psyche a vital message for our endurance.

The story of the moon is the story of our people. Like the

moon, the Jewish people dip and soar through history.

Yet, from each defeat, we have risen stronger. Our highest

achievements will be born of moments of despair, each descent

leading to a new ascent, each decline bringing us to

unprecedented new heights.

Just as the disappearance of the moon is part of its reemergence,

the darkness is part of our journey. It is there so we

can light the way—and more importantly, so that we can discover

our own inner light.

—from Shabbat/deLights