Torah For Today! This week: Israel’s moon mission

Torah For Today! This week: Israel’s moon mission

Rabbi Zvi Solomons takes a topical issue and looks into Jewish texts for a halachic response

Rabbi Zvi Solomons

 There’s a corny joke about extra-terrestrial life children tell in shul. When the chazan bows to the Ark, taking out the Torah scroll, he says Gad’lu l’adonai Iti, which sounds like “E.T.”

Of course this is not proof of a belief in life on other worlds, but Judaism is very interested in the cosmos outside of the earth.

The moon is important to us because we have an intercalated solar-lunar calendar, meaning that we fix our months by the moon and the sun, so festivals appear in their proper seasons, but months also appear according to the lunar phases.

This necessitates a leap month, which is why we have two Adars this year,
to catch us up to the solar year. Were we not to do this, Pesach would not fall  in the spring.

The Midrash uses the sun and the moon to illustrate human nature and our desire to dominate. They were created the same size and brilliance, but the moon was jealous and asked God to make one smaller and dimmer.

God obliged by doing this to the moon, but in compensation made her Queen of the Night ruling over the rest of the cosmos.

The moon is also described as emblematic of the Jewish people – it wanes and waxes, but it always comes back again, and like us, is resilient.

With the exploration of the cosmos by the Israeli probe, we see a great leap in science. Jews have always been fascinated by physics and astronomy.

The rabbinic calendar was calculated to such accuracy that it has only deviated by four days in 2,000 years.

Let us hope the Israeli probe is able to bring back new discoveries and we should rightly feel very proud of the scientific achievement this project demonstrates.

  • Rabbi Zvi Solomons serves the Jewish community of Berkshire
read more: