Torah For Today! This week: The Moon landings

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Torah For Today! This week: The Moon landings

Rabbi Garry Wayland takes a topical issue and applies an Orthodox Jewish response

The Moon
The Moon

Few phrases encapsulate the ambition, ingenuity and dedication of humanity in the way of Neil Armstrong’s famous line: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

An incredible technological and scientific feat, the Apollo missions marked a change in the way that we view not only space, but life itself.

The Jewish calendar beats according to the pulse of the moon. Rosh Chodesh, the New Month, is calculated to align with the Molad – the appearance of the new Moon every 29-and-a-half or so days. There are several prayers and ceremonies that mark the New Moon.

Beforehand, we announce its coming with Birkat Hachodesh, the day itself is semi-festive, and afterwards there is a prayer, said at night when the light of the moon is significant enough for its effects to be noticeable. Our sages make a particularly profound comment about this prayer: “Greeting the New Moon is like greeting the presence of the Divine.”

It is hard to imagine the feelings those living in the pre-scientific era must have felt when they looked up at the Moon. We can glean some sense from the comments of our classic commentators.

“Through the movements of the Moon we gain a sense of the might of God and His deeds…” (Levush, 16th century) and “Through the blessing of the Moon the Divine Presence is drawn down into this world,” (Racanti, 13th century.).

Some emphasise the Moon being a metaphor for the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people, constantly waxing and waning until the end of time with the coming of the Messiah. We may no longer get these feelings often when we look up towards the heavens, even on the occasions we can see past the light pollution
and aeroplanes.

Yet when I was watching the footage of the Moon landings from 50 years ago, listening to the recordings and reading about the miracles, I found myself with a definitive answer to Khrushchev’s question of Yuri Gagarin: “Was God up there?” For me, the answer is most definitely yes.

  • Rabbi Garry Wayland is a teacher and educator for US Living and Learning


Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: