Tomorrow is an historical day. We ought to stop all that we are doing and just give thanks for the merit of participating in a once-in-a-28-year experience: The suns return to its original configuration.
Much has been written about this year’s celebration of the 28-year sun cycle. This infrequent event is even rarer when it falls out, as it does this year, on Erev Pesach, the day before Passover.
Is there a connection between the two? One could argue that Passover is specifically related to the moon, not the sun. When G-d first informed Moses that the Jewish people, after their long 210-year exile, will leave Egypt, He did so with the sign of the new moon: “This month shall be to you the head of the months; it shall be the first month of the year.” For the Jewish Exodus took place on the full moon of this month, the fifteenth day of the month of redemption. In fact, the entire Hebrew calendar and all the Jewish holidays are regulated by the lunar cycle.
Yet, all moonlight is dependent on the sun. Were there no sun, the moon would be a dark body without any light to reflect to earth. Indeed, just as the moon depends on the sun for its light, the redemption from Egypt (connected to the moon) was led by Moses, who is compared to the sun (“the face of Moses is like the face of the sun”).
Why then did G-d show Moses the new moon and not the sun? And why do we reenact that demonstration by blessing the new moon each month, and the sun only once in 28 years?
The answer provides us with an invaluable lesson in life – and captures the essence of Passover: Reflective light (moon) is more powerful than emanating light (sun). The receiver is greater than the giver; the act of receiving more powerful than the act of giving. Though moonlight is nothing more than a reflection of the sun, its ability to receive, absorb, retain and reflect the sun’s light to earth adds a completely new dimension – qualitatively superior – to sunlight itself!
How is that possible? you may wonder. How can the cause be weaker than its effect; the source lesser than its beneficiary? Yet, we see it all around us. What is more powerful: Sound or silence? Aggression or subtlety? Speaking or listening? Transmitting or receiving? Extracting or emerging? Imposition or resonance? The sizzle or the steak? The visible or the invisible?
Intimacy is always about letting go. By freeing ourselves of our outer trappings, the juices from within begin to flow. Still waters run deep. The “majesty of the princess is within.”
Which explains why the Talmudic sage attributed his greatest wisdom to his students. “I have learned much from my teachers; even more from my friends; but above all, from my students.” The depth of wisdom that reflects back from students (the moon) is far more profound than the wisdom emanating from teachers (the sun).
The sun’s light is far more brilliant than the moons will ever be. But it is only as powerful as the sun itself can be. The moon, despite its lack of independent light, or rather, precisely because of it, accesses a deeper, more intimate place, which can only be reached when one’s identity is suspended.
The moon therefore emanates with its own unique haunting aura. That silver-white, enigmatic glow which evokes in us mystery and intrigue. Have you ever seen people in love staring at the sun (even with shades)? We do see them staring at the moon…
Moonlight is the secret of bittul; the ability to suspend your own space and allow room for a presence beyond and greater than yourself. Through utter dedication to a cause greater than yourself, and allowing that presence to channel through you, you become an extension of that greatness; you become greater than yourself.
A child once asked his pregnant mother: How do you have room inside of you for another life? Men barely have room for someone outside of themselves. Let alone inside. The feminine malchut (the moon) is “empty” of its own ego and personality, and thus allows in another. The Kotzker Rebbe as a child was once asked “Where is G-d?” To which he replied: “Where ever you let Him in.”
Our calendar is thus regulated by the lunar cycles. We count by and are compared to the humble moon. But once every 28 years we are reminded to recognize the source from whence the moon receives its light. Ultimately, our objective is, in the words of the mystics, the intimate union between sun and moon (yichud shimsha v’sihara).
We need to know that Moses the sun leads us out of all constraints (mitzrayim), but to access this power requires us to be humble like the moon.
You can say that Passover is the marriage between sun and moon, the solar voice speaking to us through the lunar module: The all-powerful, giver of light, communicating through a humble interface, the reflective, absorbing moon.
As we rise to this historical day and bless the sun, and then enter Passover to the full moon, let us ponder on these two heavenly luminaries. They stand witness to our long history – both in joy and in pain. These same two celestial bodies looked down on all that transpired over the millennia. These same two balls in the sky were looked up at by our parents, grandparents and ancestors all the way to the beginning time. How much anger and hope did the sun and moon evoke in people’s hearts?
And now, we look up at them through our myopic eyes. Can we see their message? Can we align ourselves to their original coordinates?
And above all: Can we learn from them the balance of give and take, transmission and reception, fusing the solar and the lunar in one glorious union, knowing always that the power to reflect is greater than the power to emanate.
With all our powerful tools and resources – formidable minds, aggressive conquests, innovative technologies and complex structures – Passover is a time to access our most powerful resource of all: Our ability to step back and soak in forces beyond our own. A time to quietly take in new realities and greater possibilities.