Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Sukkos and Lunar Eclipse/Celebration and Demonstration

The first night of Sukkos was a few nights ago.  As it turns out, a total eclipse of the moon was also visible from Chicago that night; becoming total at 9:47PM.  I mentioned that to someone walking home from shul and added, "It's a beautiful night to observe the eclipse!"  He answered me, with some disdain, "It is a beautiful night to be in the sukkah."  He apparently felt I had too much enthusiasm for this astronomical event and not enough for the sanctity of evening.  I accepted the mussar, but I had very spiritual reasons for being excited about a lunar eclipse... especially on Sukkos.

Before we get to the spirituality, it is worth taking just a few moments to appreciate the event.  The earth is 93,000,000 miles from the sun.  To get a lunar eclipse, you need the earth to come between the sun and the moon.  If you think about that, you'll realize that a lunar eclipse will only occur when the moon and sun are on opposite sides of the earth; ie, a full moon.  The eclipse is "just" the shadow of the earth falling across the moon.  Why "just" (in quotes)?  The moon is 250,000 miles from the earth.  So this line up of sun/moon/earth is like aiming a good size search light (the sun) at a golf ball (the earth) that is over 26 miles away and then putting a pea (the moon) in the shadow of the golf ball.  Good luck.

That's a lot of really precise placement.  Seems like a big bother.  Almost makes one think it isn't by accident.  (You knew that was coming.)  In fact, we refer to solar eclipses every Shabbos; it's right there in the davening.  Where?  I was hoping you would ask.  In "Keil Adon" (Shabbos morning hymn), we say (among other things): He called to the sun and it shone forth, He saw; and He fixed the form of the appearance of the moon.  Nice hymn.  Simple enough.  But wait...the flow of the hymn should have just been, "He called to the sun... and He fixed the moon..."  An attentive reading begs the question: What did He see that required fixing the moon?  In fact, what exactly did He fix?

The medrash (quoted by the Prisha on the Tur, OC 281) says that He saw that the nations would worship the sun, so He fixed the orbit of the moon to eclipse the sun from time to time!  While the nations were running around in terror about this or that eclipse, we were smiling at the precision with which HaShem had placed the heavenly bodies in their celestial paths.  Isn't that cool?  Sitting in a sukkah -- celebrating HaShem's infinitely precise supervision of even the tiniest details -- and observing a beautiful and grand demonstration of one that same idea.

Which is why I was excited for the perfect viewing conditions especially on this holy evening.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…