Eclipse is a source of hope in troubled times

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Every month, after Rosh Chodesh, we recite Kiddush Levana, to sanctify the new moon with a special beracha.

We need to recite this beracha, after observing the new moon, while standing. The Gemara says (Sanhedrin 42a) that we stand because this is our receiving the Countenance of the King once a month. Rashi explains that we stand out of kavod, respect, for the Shechina.

What is it about Kiddush Levana that is considered standing before the Shechina “one time a month”? Don’t we stand before the Shechina three times a day every time we daven? (That’s why we stand; it’s called “amida,” standing before the King!)

Many times I heard from Mori Ve’Rabi R’ Shlomo Volbe zt”l to explain this with the commentary of Rabbeinu Yona in Berachos (21a), that Hashem is called “Keil Mistater,” He hides Himself in the beriah, the creation, but is “Elokei Yisroel Moshiah,” He reveals Himself through the miracles He performs to redeem Klal Yisroel. Similarly, He is revealed through His creations when there is a change from the norm. When He renews the months, that is another way that Hashem reveals Himself and that monthly revelation is considered a unique acceptance of the Countenance of Hashem, requiring us to stand.

R’ Volbe explained that when things are the same, as amazing as they are, we become accustomed to them and fail to notice their greatness. When there’s a change, it wakes us up to take notice and that awakening within us is the recognition of the Shechina.

Many times I had the zechus to observe R’ Volbe recite Kiddush Levana and it was an awe-inspiring, unforgettable sight to behold such a great baal mussar (who concentrated on self-improvement) standing before the King with such yiras Shomayim (fear of Heaven) on his face.

I’ve often had the feeling, when observing the breathtaking, royal colors of fall, the deep purples, oranges and yellows, that what is happening is that at the time of the changing of seasons the world around is celebrating the revelation of the King, as R’ Volbe explained that with change we feel the King. In spring the world is decked out in beautiful buds, flowers and new leaves to coronate the King who’s bringing about another change from winter to spring.

And whenever I see a breathtaking sunrise or sunset, those royal colors across the sky, to me, are celebrating that change from day to night, from night to day.

If this is true with common occurrences such as a sunrise, all the more so when we observe something which is completely and utterly outside of our usual experience, such as the moon hiding the sun in midday. This is an opportunity for us, a true gift, to enable us to feel and celebrate the King’s rule over the universe, to “receive the Countenance of the King.”

There is, perhaps, another aspect of this great eclipse which is a source of hope for the Jewish people, despite the tragic events which took place and continue to take place in Eretz Yisroel and throughout the world. The enormity of sheer numbers of those expressing their support of terror and terrorists and their animosity and hatred of Klal Yisroel is daunting and overwhelming. How could our tiny nation stand up to the hatred of so many in our own universities, on street corners and throughout the world?!

But here we have a tiny orb, the moon, which is 1/400th of the size of the sun and nevertheless will completely cover and black out the light of the sun which reaches us!

This took place place between Parshas HaChodesh, when we received the mitzvah to sanctify the moon and count our months according to the lunar calendar, and Rosh Chodesh Nissan, when that mitzvah begins, the first mitzvah of the Torah, the mitzvah which preceded our redemption. Klal Yisroel is compared to, and very connected to, the cycles of the moon. The nations of the world count by the sun and are compared to the sun (even those who also use a solar calendar).

Doesn’t this give us hope, at this time, that our tiny nation, “atem m’at mikol ha’amim” (the fewest in number of all the nations), has the ability to overcome the light of the sun, the power of the nations of the world?! On Hanukkah we say “rabim biyad me’atim,” the many of the Greek legions in the hands of the few Maccabees! Even the tiny moon can overshadow the enormous sun!

Vehi sh’amda l’avoseinu v’lanu, not only one nation, Egypt, but in every generation they get up to destroy us and Hakadosh Baruch Hu, who is revealed by the waxing and waning of the moon, rescues us, the moon, from their hands!

May the divrei Torah and emunah we learn and achieve over the next two days be a big step forward for Klal Yisroel.

“To the moon He said, that it should renew itself as a crown of splendor for those borne by Him from the womb (Klal Yisroel in our final birth and revelation) and to glorify their Maker for name of His glorious Kingdom,” bimheira v’yameinu, speedily and in our days!

Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried is dean of DATA-Dallas Area Torah Association.

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