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.