In the sefer Chovos Halevavos he makes a statement that the ruchniyus and the gashmiyus of this world are combined; it means that the physical existence of everything in this world possesses also a spiritual existence. Whatever object you will see, in addition to its obvious, its palpable qualities – its size, its shape, its properties, physical and chemical – in addition, it possesses a certain spiritual entity, a spiritual quality. And these two, the ruchniyus and the gashmiyus are intertwined in every object.
Now if you’ll ask me to explain this fully, I must admit that I am not capable. Because when it comes even to physical things, I cannot explain much. When it comes to spiritual things, I can explain even less. And when it comes to something that’s a combination of physical and spiritual, I can explain even less than that. But we can approach the subject by analogies, with some examples, and that will help us to understand the matter somewhat.
The Original Rainbow
In the Torah we read what Hashem said to Noach after the Mabul: וְהָיָה בְּעַנְנִי עָנָן עַל הָאָרֶץ – When I shall cast a cloud over the earth, וְנִרְאֲתָה הַקֶּשֶׁת בֶּעָנָן – and the rainbow will appear in the cloud, וְזָכַרְתִּי אֶת בְּרִיתִי אֲשֶׁר בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵיכֶם – it means that I am remembering My covenant between Me and you, וּבֵין כָּל נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה בְּכָל בָּשָׂר – and every living being among all flesh, וְלֹא יִהְיֶה עוֹד הַמַּיִם לְמַבּוּל לְשַׁחֵת כָּל בָּשָׂר – and never again will there be a Mabul to destroy all the flesh (Noach 9:14-15).
Now these words might make it seem like until now there hadn’t been rainbows in nature. Until that day when Hashem displayed the rainbow as a sign of the covenant, there hadn’t yet been such a phenomenon. Only now, after the Mabul, it was created l’os bris, for the especial purpose of being a demonstration of Hashem’s promise.
But that raises a question because we know that a rainbow is a result of natural causes; it’s a consequence of the breaking up of the sun’s rays into its various components. Sunlight, you know, is not one color. When you walk out in the street and you see that golden light streaming down on you it’s really a number of colors, only that when they’re combined it looks like yellow sunlight.
That’s why if you take a prism, a shaped piece of glass with sides to it, and let the sun’s rays pass through it you’ll see that the prism breaks up the sunlight into various colors. What’s happening there? As the light passes from the air into the prism it slows and the change in speed causes the light to bend; only that the different wavelengths, the different colors, bend at different angles and so on the other side of the prism you’ll see all the various colors that make up sunlight.
And so a rainbow is nothing new; the whole thing is a natural phenomenon. As the sun shines through a curtain of moisture, the water droplets act like a prism; they cause the sun’s light to slow down as it goes from the air into the denser water droplet and it breaks up into all kinds of colors. That’s why you can create a rainbow of your own whenever you want. If you take out a hose to water your lawn and you hold it up in the air, so as the water cascades through the air and the sun’s rays are shining through the water, you’ll see a rainbow.
And therefore it’s a question: What’s so marvelous that a rainbow should be construed as a covenant-sign from Hashem? What kind of sign could it be? All it is is the sun’s rays going through a veil of moisture.
So the Ramban says ein hachi nami; the rainbow wasn’t created now, a made-to-order os bris. As long as there was a sun and rain there were rainbows. And therefore when Hashem said, אֶת קַשְׁתִּי נָתַתִּי בֶּעָנָן – I put My rainbow into the cloud, He’s referring to the sidrei bereishis: “From the beginning of time I put a rainbow in the clouds.”
Only that at the beginning, because mankind wasn’t apprised yet of its significance so the rainbow was just that – a rainbow. But it was waiting for the time when Hashem would reveal its secret. And now, after the Mabul, it was אִגְלָאִי מִלְּתָא לְמַפְרֵעַ, it was retroactively revealed that already at the beginning of time the rainbow was intended by Hashem to one day serve as a sign of a covenant.
אֶת קַשְׁתִּי נָתַתִּי בֶּעָנָן – “Look at My rainbow that I put in the clouds from the beginning of time and know that it means much more than what you thought. When you see that apparition you should know what it means. It’s My promise to you that rain will never again fall in such quantities to destroy all mankind. That’s My Word.”
You know what that means? It means that everything we said till now about rainbows and prisms and wavelengths of colors is all secondary. It’s true of course; what they told you in the Beis Yaakov or in the English department in the Mesivta is the truth. But it’s only superficial; it’s good enough for a gentile maybe. But when a Jew sees a rainbow he’s expected to see much more. He’s expected to see the secret of that natural phenomenon – a covenant is hanging in the sky.
A Merciful World
Now, if we’ll reduce that covenant to its simplest form, it’s a promise that such a flood, a universal flood, is not going to be anymore. So if you live in Queens or you live in Sheepshead Bay, and in the morning you get up and you find that there’s water on the floor of your bedroom, you can rest assured that it’s not the beginning of a new Mabul. Whatever happens, someone outside will survive. He’s a Merciful Judge and He promised us there is not going to be a repetition of a universal flood.
By means of His rainbow Hashem declares to us that even though He may sometimes have to punish – Hakadosh Baruch Hu will never declare peace with those who declare war on righteousness – but the overriding hanhagah of the world is rachamim. עֹד כָּל יְמֵי הָאָרֶץ זֶרַע וְקָצִיר וְקֹר וָחֹם וְקַיִץ וָחֹרֶף וְיוֹם וָלַיְלָה לֹא יִשְׁבֹּתוּ – During all the days of the earth, seedtime and harvest and cold and heat and summer and winter and day and night shall not cease (ibid. 8:22). All the seasons and various times and functions of the world that give us the happiness of normal life will continue always because that’s Hashem’s overriding Plan in this world, to make mankind happy.
A Sweet World
Chom, heat is happiness. It’s hot? Wonderful! The apples are getting red on the trees. The pears are becoming sweet on the trees. If it wasn’t hot, they wouldn’t become sweet. Ah! Red apples and luscious cherries and plums and peaches; they’re plentiful in the summer and the prices go down in all the fruit stores. Now you’re living!
The seasons mean food! It’s kor, cold? That’s also wonderful! The earth is taking a rest from producing and it’s recuperating all the minerals it lost, all the materials it lost during the summertime. Without the winter, there can’t be a summer. If it was summer all year, the earth would keep on producing and it would become arid and infertile. That’s why the earth takes vacation in the wintertime. Cold is wonderful. Cold forces the earth to stop producing.
Snow is chessed. Rain is happiness. All the seasons and functions of the world are chessed. That’s the picture of our existence in this world and that picture is what we are supposed to learn from the phenomenon of the rainbow. He made a good world, a fun world, a safe world, a beautiful world, a world of happiness! And He promises us that it’s going to continue that way always. Because that’s His general Plan for the world: עוֹלָם חֶסֶד יִבָּנֶה.
The Colors of Kindness
And that’s what Hakadosh Baruch Hu intended when He made the phenomenon of the rainbow; to teach the world that the hanhagah is rachamim. That’s the secret of the rainbow, that the general plan of the world is kindness. The processes of nature are so arranged that they maintain life; they support the existence of living things. Wherever you look, you see that every component of nature is part of a grand scheme in which everything cooperates to maintain the existence of the living. Whether it’s the function of the rotation of the earth, day and night, or the procession of the seasons, chemical reactions of all kinds, all the biological functions of the organisms; wherever you look you see that everything is cooperating in the grand process of rachamim! That’s the meaning of this osbris.
It’s a sign of a covenant between the Borei and all the living, a covenant of mercy that Hakadosh Baruch Hu made with mankind that the world will be conducted with compassion. טוֹב ה’ לַכֹּל וְרַחֲמָיו עַל כָּל מַעֲשָׂיו. He is a chafetzchessed and He created the world for kindliness.
By means of the rainbow, Hashem declares: “In spite of My insistence on meting out consequences, My midas harachamim is My overriding hanhagah and the world will continue in the usual manner.” Isn’t that remarkable? What the world thought was just a rainbow, it turns out is an os, a lesson! It’s trying to teach you something. Whenever we see that, we should be reminded of the great principle on which the world is founded. Olam chessed yibaneh, the world is founded on kindliness.
Horses, Professors, and Jews
It means that if you see a rainbow and all you see are some colors, you’re looking at Hashem’s os bris like a horse looks at it. A horse also sees nothing but a few colors.
And even if you look up at this glorious phenomenon spread out before your eyes, an apparition of various colors, and you’re thinking about how beautiful it is, how breathtaking it is to see the moisture acting as a prism and breaking up the sunlight into various colors, so you’re looking at it not like a horse, but it’s not much better; you’re looking like a scientist, a professor.
Hashem told us to look at the rainbow differently. A horse sees nothing. A gentile, an am haaretz, sees beauty or prisms. But the one who knows the secrets of the world sees an os bris. It’s breathtaking because it’s reminding you of something even more breathtaking than beautiful colors. It’s trying to teach you something. A rainbow means, “Stop and think! Put these thoughts into your head!”
The Truth of Matter
Now I understand that this idea is remote even from the minds of frum people. We’re not accustomed to hearing such things, that natural phenomena are teaching us to think about Hashem. So start getting accustomed now because this is a very big teaching that is not limited to rainbows; all of the natural phenomena possess a vast spiritual significance.
That’s the important principle of our great teacher, the Chovos Halevavos, that every physical phenomenon has a soul to it, an inner, penimiyus’dige, purpose to it. The rainbow is only one example; there is an endless number of such ideas, of the penimiyus, the inner purposes, of nature. Only that because we live in a physical world with physical eyes, so it’s not easy to get into the habit of seeing the spiritual side of things. But that doesn’t minimize the truth of the matter and it doesn’t minimize the obligation to search out and study the secrets of the world.
Part II. Secrets of the Sun
A List for Lights
If you look in the Chumash, when Hashem created the meoros, the luminaries – it means the sun and the moon – it lists a number of purposes that He intended them for. וְהָיוּ לְאֹתֹת וּלְמוֹעֲדִים וּלְיָמִים וּלְשָׁנִים וּלְהָאִיר עַל הָאָרֶץ – And they should serve as signs, and for appointed times, and for days and years and to give light to the earth (Bereishis 1:14).
Now we have to pay attention to the list here because it’s not random; it’s telling us a certain order in importance. And it says that the first purpose is לְאוֹתוֹת. That’s number one on the list, that they should be signs, that they should demonstrate something to us. The sun is a sign, and the moon is a sign, and the stars are signs. We’ll soon see what that means.
The second is לְמוֹעֲדִים, for appointed times. The sun and the moon are both instrumental in calculating when the yomim tovim fall out. So the second purpose is to let us know ‘set times’ – “when will Yom Tov fall out?”
Third on the list is לְיָמִים – for days. The sun and the moon tell us when it’s day and when it’s night. A very important function. And then also וּלְשָׁנִים – for years. The movement of the sun around the earth divides time into years. And then last on the list, fifth in importance, is לְהָאִיר עַל הָאָרֶץ – to illuminate, to give light to the earth.
First Comes First
Now, if you give it just a little bit of thought, it’s a remarkable list because it seems to be upside down. After all, we would say that the meoros are chiefly to illuminate. That’s why they’re called meoros, luminaries. Also for day and night, and for years, to be a universal calendar. Those are the most evident and most practical purposes of the luminaries.
But those are all way on the bottom of the list. What comes before that? לְמוֹעֲדִים, to be a Jewish calendar! That’s jarring even to the ears of frum Jews. We’re willing to admit that we make use of the sun and moon for our calendar, but to say that it was created for that, even more than for לְיָמִים וּלְשָׁנִים וּלְהָאִיר – days and years and to give light?! That’s a stunning thing to say. If a professor of astronomy, a Jewish professor, would make that claim in his class he’d be finished; he’d be looking for a new job.
But the Torah is saying even more than that; we’re being told now that more important than to give light, and more important than to make days and nights and years, and even more important than the yomim tovim, is לְאוֹתוֹת, to serve as signs, to demonstrate certain principles to us. That, says the Torah, is the number one reason. Yes, there are other reasons too but they’re just auxiliary reasons; the primary purpose Hashem had in mind when He created the sun and the stars and the moon is for us to look at them and be reminded of certain ideals.
Understanding Sign Language
Because what does it mean לְאוֹתוֹת? It means that it should cause you to think of something, to recognize something. An os means it’s demonstrating something; you have to see the sign and know what it’s trying to tell you, otherwise, it’s a wasted sign.
And so we see now that we are not fulfilling the will of Hashem, we’re foiling His purpose in creating the luminaries. I’m talking now poshut pshat in the Chumash. We’re expected to use the me’oros to be informed of certain important ideals, certain principles, but who’s doing that?
How are the sun and the moon and the stars fulfilling their function, their primary function, of providing signs if we’re not gaining information when we see them? We don’t even know what to think. And so we’ll see now, maybe we can supply some of the missing information by looking in the siddur.
The Sun of Glory
The truth is that when we study what we are told in the davening about the purpose of the sun, we see that there is a paramount purpose that overshadows all other purposes and makes them almost insignificant. And that’s as follows: טוֹב יָצַר כָּבוֹד לִשְׁמוֹ. You say that every morning: “The good One created all this glory for His name.”
Now, what’s the glory we’re talking about? It’s talking about the sun. Like it says in Tehillim, הַשָּׁמַיִם מְסַפְּרִים כְּבוֹד אֵ-ל – the heavens declare the glory of Hashem, (19:2), and he goes on and says how the sun comes out every day כְּחָתָן יוֹצֵא מֵחֻפָּתוֹ. It’s talking about the sun. Every morning the sun comes out in all its glory.
Now that’s pashtus sheb’pashtus. That’s what the pessukim are talking about and that’s what the davening is talking about, that the purpose of the sun is to let us know about a Creator. The sun is one of the most prominent phenomena in our world and it’s coming to give glory to Hashem. It’s an os, a sign, of Hashem’s magnificence and resplendence; His brilliance.
Trying to See Hashem
You remember when the emperor spoke to Rabi Yehoshua ben Chananya (Chullin 59b). “Let me see your G-d,” he said, “I want to see Him.”
“Well, you can’t see Him.”
So the emperor said, “That’s baloney. I can see my gods,” and he pointed to his getchkes. “Here is my god.” He showed him a figurine standing on a shelf. “Here is another one. You can see mine,” the emperor said. “So where is yours?”
In the olden days that was a reproach to the Jewish people. לָמָּה יֹאמְרוּ הַגּוֹיִם אַיֵּה נָא אֱלֹהֵיהֶם – “Where are your gods?” the Gentiles said (Tehillim 115:2). Even today they show you a statue of someone nailed to a cross, “That’s our god, a dead god. Where’s yours?”
Debunking the Emperor
But Rabi Yehoshua ben Chananya was up to the task because he learned this subject of osos. So he said “If you insist, come up on the roof. I’ll show you something.”
They went up on the roof of the palace and he pointed at the sun. “Take a good look at that”, he said, “Don’t take your eyes off it.”
“That’s impossible,” the emperor said. “I can’t look at that. It’s too brilliant. I’ll go blind.”
So Rabi Yehoshua ben Chananya said “Do you know what the sun is? The sun is one of the smallest, one of the most minuscule servants that serve our Creator.” You know there are trillions of suns. Out in space, the stars are much bigger than the sun. There are some stars as big as the entire solar system. One of the biggest stars is so big you can fit five billion suns into that star.
So Rabi Yehoshua ben Chananya said to the emperor “If you cannot look even at the least of the servants of the Creator, do you expect to look at Him? You’ll get blind if you look at His messenger. You expect to look at Him?”
A Story With a Lesson
Now this is not just an anecdote, a story for children. It’s an important Torah lesson because it’s telling us pshat in this possuk, וְהָיוּ לְאֹתֹת. The primary purpose of the sun is to be for us a tiny token of its Creator. Of course it’s not tiny as far as we’re concerned but that’s the point. It’s a mighty phenomenon, a huge endless storehouse of atomic energy. You know the sun burns by atomic energy, by nuclear energy? It’s been burning for five thousand years, and it shows no sign of weakening. It can go on and on. Only nuclear energy can supply that.
It’s a tremendous phenomenon that bombards this earth with so much heat and so much light. And most of the sun’s energy is not even used. A tremendous surplus goes off into space. And that big fireball, that tremendous sun, is nothing after all. It’s one tiny, infinitesimal, creation of Hashem. It’s a mote, an atom, a nothing, compared to its Creator. And that’s what the sun is for. That’s the most important purpose of the sun, so that you should remind yourself every day – a few times every day! – about the vastness, the greatness, of the One Who created that sun.
And that’s why this os is available wherever you go; the sun shines everywhere because wherever you go, that’s the most important reminder you’ll need – that there’s a Great Creator.
Traveling to the Sun
Now the truth is that it’s such an important demonstration that even if this phenomenon would be available only, let’s say, in the heart of China, on a tall mountain in the Tibetan wilderness, we’d be obligated to travel there to see it. Suppose that’s the only place where you could see the sun; so it would be our duty to tap our way with white canes – all mankind would walk in darkness tapping our way through the world until we reach that mountaintop. And we’d open our eyes and see the sun! “Aha! We made it! Look at that os! Look at that sign of Hashem’s greatness!” And it would be worth living just for that; it would be worth being born just to see that demonstration once.
But because it’s such an important demonstration of the One Who is מְלֹא כָל הָאָרֶץ כְּבוֹדוֹ so it’s also, to a certain extent, מְלֹא כָל הָאָרֶץ כְּבוֹדוֹ; it’s an os that shines everywhere. בְּכָל הָאָרֶץ יָצָא קַוָּם וּבִקְצֵה תֵבֵל מִלֵּיהֶם – To all ends of the earth its voice, its words, go out (Tehillim 19:5). You can’t avoid seeing it; you can’t avoid hearing its message.
Sunset for the Lazy
And sometimes as an added convenience, in case all day long you’re too lazy to lift your head up and look at the sun, so when the sun begins to set it comes down low and it’s right in front of your eyes. And then it’s big and red – it’s more conspicuous for lazy people. And so at sunset, that’s the time to take a good look.
That’s why the Gemara (Brachos 29b) says that’s the best time to daven minchah; יִירָאוּךְ עִם שָׁמֶשׁ – they will fear you together with the sun (Tehillim 72:5). It means that as the sun goes down that’s when we should stand Shemoneh Esrei. Only that some of the Sages said it’s not a good idea; don’t wait that late because you might miss minchah; better to daven early. But the original, proper time was ‘with the sun’ – when it comes down low on the horizon, in front of your eyes and it’s bigger now – at least it looks bigger – and it’s glowing red. That ohr of glory is a testimony to the One Who created it. It’s an os that Hakadosh Baruch Hu made the world.
So when the sun rises in the morning or the sun is setting at night time or anytime during the day, if you’re able to take a quick peek without spoiling your eyes, think הַשָּׁמַיִם – the sun in heaven, מְסַפְּרִים כְּבוֹד אֵל – is telling about the glory of Hashem, וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדָיו מַגִּיד הָרָקִיעַ – what’s up there in the sky is showing you the work of His hands (Tehillim 19:2). That’s the primary purpose of the sun!
The Laugher Loses Out
Now try and tell that to someone outside. The sun is for that?! He’ll laugh at that. He went to high school. He took the regents tests even and so he knows all about the sun.
But he knows nothing; he knows only the gashmius. But of the real purpose, the soul of the sun, he knows nothing. And even if he’s a yeshivah man, he’ll tell you about l’moadim ul’yomim ul’shonim, but the most important purpose, l’osos, the spiritual component of the sun, that he forgets about. וְהָיוּ לְאוֹתוֹת means that the sun will be a sign to teach us of something that’s penimiyus. The secret of the sun, the soul of the universe. And that secret is Hakadosh Baruch Hu.
Part III. Nighttime Secrets
The Night Sky Speaks
Now, what about after the sun sets? Does that mean it’s time to forget about the osos, the demonstrations of the luminaries? Oh no, the secrets of the world are too important of a subject to forget about at night. יוֹם לְיוֹם יַבִּיעַ אֹמֶר – Each day is speaking to you important words, וְלַיְלָה לְּלַיְלָה יְחַוֶּה דָּעַת – but the nights too are teaching you wisdom (Tehillim 19:3).
Everyone knows that once a month we go out of the shul into the street and we make a bracha on the new moon; and we say, וְלַלְּבָנָה אָמַר – Hashem told the moon, שֶׁתִּתְחַדֵּשׁ – should become small and disappear at the end of the month and then at the beginning of the new month it should reappear. It means that He made it happen.
Now that’s not a chiddush to us. Only the atheists, the liars, so they’ll say that it’s an accident; but the frum Jews, we know that וְלַלְּבָנָה אָמַר, that Hashem gave the command to the moon.
But even that is not the whole truth. Because why did He do it, that’s the question. So you’ll say it’s for important purposes. Hakadosh Baruch Hu has good reasons for the phenomenon of the phases of the moon; the waxing and waning of the moon is purposeful. When the moon changes its appearance, it helps us eat. It creates food. It facilitates many processes of life. And so what’s the question ‘Why did He command the moon to wax and wane’? There are so many beneficial reasons.
The Real Renewal Reason
The answer is that those aren’t the real reason. וְלַלְּבָנָה אָמַר שֶׁתִּתְחַדֵּשׁ – Why did He give that command and create a system of the moon traveling around the earth so that sometimes it reflects more of the sunlight towards the earth and sometimes less? Not for all those reasons you thought. He did it so that it should be עֲטֶרֶת תִּפְאֶרֶת – be a crown of glory, לַעֲמוּסֵי בָּטֶן – to those whom Hakadosh Baruch Hu has carried since their birth. That’s the Jewish nation. Since we became a nation He has carried us like someone carries a child in His arms, taking care of us with an especial providence.
How is the moon a crown of glory for us? שֶׁהֵם עֲתִידִים לְהִתְחַדֵּשׁ כְּמוֹתָהּ – because we are going to be renewed someday just like we see the moon being renewed. The moon you know is sometimes not visible. It disappears at the end of the month. It becomes smaller and smaller and disappears. But don’t give up hope; as sure as anything it’s going to reappear. In a few days you’ll go out to the street and you’ll see it again.
And the Am Yisroel too, it may seem that they’re disappearing. Forget about that. It’s never going to happen. As long as there’s going to be a world, there’s going to be an Am Yisroel. And not only they’re going to be, but they’re going to reappear and get greater and greater.
The Moon of Encouragement
And so the moon is the sign of what’s going to happen to us. The moon disappears and then reappears to be a message that no matter what, the Am Yisroel will someday reappear and become the greatest in the world. We will be restored to our full greatness eventually. And that’s why we mention Dovid Hamelech. Because ben Dovid is going to come. Moshiach ben Dovid will come at that great time, and יַכִּירוּ וְיֵדְעוּ כָּל יוֹשְׁבֵי תֵבֵל – everybody will recognize the truth then.
It’s a pity, people come out and say kiddush levanah and don’t even think once about what the moon is saying to them. The levanah is saying, “Take heart! Be of good courage! Whatever happens to you in your history don’t be disheartened. Because you are going to win out in the end. The future belongs to you. And someday you will illuminate the world!” That’s what the moon is there for, just for that.
Poetic and Primary
Don’t think it’s a little remez, that agav orcha, we decided to take this natural phenomenon of the moon’s phases and attach our own ideals to it, that we’re using it as a parable like somebody might do in a poetic way. No. He’s telling us a fact of creation: וְלַלְּבָנָה אָמַר שֶׁתִּתְחַדֵּשׁ – He commanded the moon to renew itself, עֲטֶרֶת תִּפְאֶרֶת – and the purpose is just for that to be a crown of glory for us.
So the question is what about all the other purposes of the phases of the moon? They’re not even mentioned in the brachah. Wasn’t the moon told to renew itself because of other purposes?
And the answer is certainly it was. עוֹלַם חֶסֶד יִבָּנֶה – Hashem built this world for chessed. Certainly it’s all kindness and all the kindly purposes are intended. And yet the greatest kindness of all is the penimiyus, the inner soul of the moon. Hakadosh Baruch Hu says, “The moon is My messenger to the Am Yisroel and that is its most important function. More than the purpose of controlling the tides, the purpose of giving light at night, and even the many functions that haven’t been discovered yet, all these purposes are minor purposes; the major purpose is leosos.
A Month-Long Kiddush
And therefore it’s not just a good thing to think about. It’s the main thing to think about. Unfortunately most people look at the moon like cows. But a cow, we can’t blame him. When he looks at the moon we don’t expect him to have any kind of feelings at all. But we, we’re the ones the moon is speaking to. We’re the ones the moon is speaking about. And therefore, as much as possible, even when you’re not saying kiddush levanah, we try to listen to its message.
You see a full moon? The most beautiful object in the sky is a full moon. It’s too late for kiddush levanah but it’s still an os, a demonstration of the utmost importance. It’s reminding us that someday we will be recognized as the most beautiful firmament of the world. We will be the nation that shines in the whole world.
The Sign of the Stars
Now, before we finish our talk and we walk outside into the night to practice up on these ideas, one more example of the night demonstrations. Because not only the sun and the moon but all the star worlds are also meoros. וְאֶת הַכּוֹכָבִים – and also the stars (Bereishis 1:16). The trillions of stars are also osos, demonstrations. What are they for?
So, it could be that the scientists and the astronomers have their ideas. I imagine they publish long papers in their scientific journals and they pontificate about the various functions of the stars. Very good. It could even be they’re right. But whatever they say, even if it’s something true, you have to know that it’s secondary to the function of l’osos.
What type of sign, what type of spiritual lesson are we expected to learn from the stars?
And the answer is that, among other things, it’s for the purpose of letting us know the vastness of Hashem, His infinite greatness. So many star worlds! There are billions and billions and billions and billions and billions of stars. If I would sit here all evening and say the word billions over again, I wouldn’t be finished. That’s how many there are actually.
It’s so much space! You know the scientists say that there’s no end to space. It’s not true because everything in gashmiyus has an end, but it’s almost endless.
If you started out in a space shuttle before you were bar mitzvah and you wanted to go to that star over there, before you get to the star you’ll have a long white beard. You’ll be an old, old man. That’s how long it will take and you’re not even halfway there yet. Some of the places are so far away that your great-great-great-grandchild will not reach it yet even though your shuttle is traveling at the speed of light. You hear that? That’s how far away it is.
Now, space, you have to know, is a briah. It’s not a vacancy; it’s a creation. Why did Hashem do that? Why did He give us an almost endless remote world to look at? With a naked eye you could see the Milky Way where there are billions of stars. And the telescopes open up new vistas.
Why so much? Hashem could have made a little world. He could have boxed us in, confined us in a small space and we could have lived quite comfortably. Hakadosh Baruch Hu as an Engineer is able to do everything. He could have air conditioned the space perfectly. Who needs the endless star worlds?
And the answer is we need it. Because more than anything in this world we need a Torah mind and we acquire that mind by looking up into the sky and thinking! That’s what the Navi Yeshaya told us. שְׂאוּ מָרוֹם עֵינֵיכֶם – Lift up your eyes on high, וּרְאוּ – and see, מִי בָּרָא אֵלֶּה – Who made these (Yeshaya 40:26). Because from the greatness of space you get somewhat of an idea of the greatness of the One Who made it. That’s the purpose of space, so that you should raise up your eyes and say, “Look how far that is! How could it be, a creation that goes on almost forever?!”
It’s only because there is a Creator even greater than that. Greater than endless?! Yes, the purpose of the stars is to make you see the vastness and the remoteness of space and think how great is Hakadosh Baruch Hu as a Creator of this tremendous universe which seems to have no end. The stunning vastness of the star worlds give us an inkling, a mashehu, of Hashem’s greatness.
Old Fashioned Torah
Now, I know that when some people hear this they think what kind of talk is that, old-fashioned talk. It is old-fashioned. It’s from the beginning of the world, because that’s why Hashem made these luminaries; to be signs, to teach us how to think.
And don’t say that’s superfluous, that you know it anyhow. “I need the sun and the star worlds for that? I know all about it.” You don’t know it. You never spent even five minutes thinking about the greatness of Hashem. It means you’re ignoring the purpose of the world. The world was constructed for one purpose and let us get it clear in our minds because there is no other purpose – and that is to make a man a more perfect being. We are here in this life to become better, to create for ourselves a Torah mind. And for that, the navi said, שְׂאוּ מָרוֹם עֵינֵיכֶם – “Lift up your eyes on high and look.” Se’u means always; you should never stop.
Coming Back to Reality
Now we have to understand this may seem all exaggerated. Rainbows and moons and star worlds, it’s just something to talk about in an idle evening – you come here, you hear the lecture but then you walk out and go back to the realities of life and forget about it. After all, we’re all frum Jews and we have to practice mitzvos and we have to learn Torah, and such things like the secrets of the rainbow and the sun and moon are not something that you have to dwell on.
The answer is it’s a big error. Don’t think that by getting back to practicalities you’re really doing what the Torah requires of you. You’re just dodging one of the main obligations of a Jew, and that is to learn from what your eyes see; to live up to our great responsibility of learning the lessons from the secrets of the universe.
Have A Wonderful Shabbos
Let’s Get Practical
Seeing and Studying Secrets
While the rainbow seems to be a simple physical phenomenon, the Torah tells us that there’s an underlying spiritual message, a covenant with Hashem. The Chovos Halevavos teaches that all physical phenomena have a spiritual element as well. In order to get into the habit of learning the lessons of the natural phenomena that Hashem is showing us, we have to practice attaching thoughts to the osos that are intended by Hashem for this primary purpose.
This week I will bli neder use the day and night to practice learning the secrets of the universe. Once every day I will take a quick glance at the sun and I will spend thirty seconds thinking about what it’s trying to teach me. And every night I will spend thirty seconds looking at the moon or the stars and review the lessons they are trying to teach.
This week’s booklet is based on tapes:
15 – Spirit of Matter | 127 – The Rainbow | 224 – Purposes of the Sun | 394 – Soul of the Universe | 459 – Concealed and Revealed | E-239 – Hashem Speaks in Nature
Malky!” Basya said excitedly, as she ran over to her friend after the recess bell rang. “I have the best idea ever!”
“Ooooh let’s hear!” Channie said, joining them.
“You remember how Morah Esty said that her five year old niece is very sick in the hospital and she was very happy when Morah brought her an arts and crafts project to help her fill her day? I figured out a project we can do to help out all sick children!”
“Oh I love it already,” Malky gushed. “Bikur cholim and a project all rolled up in one. Tell us more.”
“We’ll make coloring books for them!” Basya said, talking quickly out of excitement. “We’ll draw beautiful sketches for them to color in and make it into a real coloring book. And my Uncle Ben who prints the Toras Avigdor booklets on his big fancy printing machines, I bet he’ll print up the coloring books for free! And then we can give them out to all the children in the hospital.”
“C-c-could I help?” came a shy voice from behind them.
The girls turned around to see Devorah, the quietest girl in their class standing there, blushing furiously.
“You want to help?” Basya asked, confused. Devorah had never talked to her before. She just usually spent her recess alone doing arts and crafts projects.
“Y-yeah, I like to draw. I also have a cool idea for the cover of the coloring book.”
“Um – yeah, of course, we’d love to have your help!” Basya said, quickly regaining her composure. “And maybe Morah Esty will let us work on it as a class project!”
A few minutes later, the bell rang and the girls made their way back to their classroom.
“Girls,” Morah Esty said as everyone took their seats. “Devorah stopped me on my way into the classroom and told me about this wonderful idea that she came up with for a class project.”
Basya looked up in shock. “That she came up with”?!! This was her idea, and Devorah told the teacher about it as if it were her own? As Morah Esty told everyone about the coloring book project, Basya glared over at Devorah who quickly looked away, her face bright red. What was Devorah thinking? How dare she steal her idea and call it her own?
Basya couldn’t pay attention to anything Morah Esty said for the rest of the day. All she could think about was how she came up with this amazing idea and now Devorah was taking all of the credit.
“H-h-i Basya,” Devorah said to her after the bell rang and the girls began gathering their things, but Basya was too angry at Devorah to speak with her and she stomped off and headed home
“Hi Basya, how was school?” Mommy asked as Basya walked into the kitchen
“Terrible!” Basya said angrily. “It was the worst day ever!”
“Oy, I’m so sorry to hear that! What happened?”
Basya told Mommy all about her great idea and how she was now not going to get any credit.
“Oy, I’m so sorry,” Mommy said kindly. “But I want to show you something.”
Mommy pulled out a little craft made from colorful yarn.
“A girl named Devorah from your class stopped by a few minutes ago,” Mommy said. “She told me that she was the one who told the teacher about the idea and that she was so nervous that she forgot to mention it was your idea.”
“Well she should have corrected the teacher when she got all the credit,” replied Basya, folding her arms stubbornly.
“She said she’s terribly sorry about what happened and she wanted me to give you this.” Mommy handed Basya the yarn craft, which Basya took and looked at with a raised eyebrow.
“This?” Basya said in disgust. “She thinks some stupid arts and craft project will make things better? What am I going to do with this?”
“Well,” Mommy said slowly. “Do you think Hashem has what to do with the smell of burning animals?”
“What?” asked Basya, confused.
“Well, in this week’s Parsha it says that Hashem smelled the ‘pleasant smell’ of Noach’s korbanos and as a result said he would no longer curse the land because of aveiros. Do you think that Hashem really needs the smell of burning korbanos?”
Basya thought about this, still not sure what it had to do with anything.
“Basyaleh,” Mommy said. “It’s not about what Devorah gave you – it’s the fact that she tried to do something nice for you. Think about how Hashem saw Noach trying to do something for Him. Even though Hashem didn’t need his korban, yet Hashem still accepted his sacrifice. Don’t you think you can see that Devorah is trying to make sholom with you by giving you something that she made? Even if you don’t need it, it shows that she cares.”
Basya looked down at the braided yarn in her hand.
“Yeah I guess that makes sense. Thank you Mommy for explaining this. I should probably call Devorah and thank her – and also apologize for ignoring her earlier today.”
Have A Wonderful Shabbos!
Takeaway: We learn from Hashem to accept any form of appeasement in order to forgive others.
Why is Basya upset with Devorah?
What’s the connection between Noach’s Korban and Devorah’s yarn craft?