Friday, July 06, 2007

"bring a kaparah for my making the moon small" - does G-d sin???

Once when we had been living in Passaic there was a Rosh Yeshiva who was visiting and on a Friday night there was an open question-answer session at someone’s house. I recall that someone asked this R.Y. about the Rashi in our parsha which explains the korban musaf of Rosh Chodesh was a kaparah brought on behalf of Hashem for making the moon smaller than the sun. his person said his kid had asked what that meant and he had no explanation. The RY said he did not know either, to which the person objected that he could not simply tell his child that “Tatte does not know”. The RY dismissed that fear by saying that kids need to know their parents don’t know everything either.

The mussar is nice, but I guess I don’t take “I don’t know” too easily – what can it mean to bring an offering on behalf of G-d so he can have atonement? Does G-d sin?

On David Guttman’s blog he already posted in this same topic based on the Rambam in Moreh. The Rambam writes that we must be especially attentive in focusing on the the New Moon korban as dedicated only to serving Hashem because pagan religions engaged in actual moon worship with sacrificial rituals. While this approach explains the extra use of “LaHashem” in the pasuk as a point of emphasis, it does not really explain the language and imagery of the Midrash.

For a different approach, see the Maharal on this Chazal in the Gur Arye; it is rather lengthy, but has a number of key yesodos in machshava (the RY I guess was not a Maharal fan). This is not exactly what he says, but the idea is that the act of creation by definition introduces a distance between the Creator and the physical world, between giver and receiver. We are not yet ready to live in a physical world while simultaneously experiencing G-d’s complete immanence. This symbolically is the moon’s complaint at the moment of creation that it and the sun cannot share the same crown. Creation necessitates the imperfection (which Maharal proves is the true meaning of the word cheit), of blindness to G-d, a necessary evil because of our limitations.

Our job, through Torah and mitzvos, is to bring together the sun and the moon, to work on breaking that polarity and achieve complete dveikus. Hashem asks that we bring a kaparah on behalf of his cheit – i.e. that we perform avodah to elevate the world so that the inherent imperfection that was built-in for our behalf is no longer necessary. Kaparah is not used here in the sense of atonement (compare with Ya’akov’s message to Eisav – “ulay achaprah panav”) but in the sense of removing limitations; removing our inability (not G-d’s!) to perfect our dveikus.

If you make it through the Maharal, I would also recommend seeing the footnotes in the new edition of Mei haShiloach (Ishbitza) on P’ Shmini regarding the conversation between Aharon and Moshe regarding whether the korban of Rosh Chodesh was burnt or eaten, and see also the Tiferes Shlomo (Radomsker) on P’ Korach regarding the Midrash that the sun and moon came to G-d and said that if He does not stand up for Moshe they will no longer shine – why did they not object by other rebellions?


  1. Anonymous11:38 AM

    In Brachos 7A, Rav says that everyday Hashem prays that His Rachamim will overcome his anger. One of the Mepharshim explains that the reason Hashem prays is to show us the proper way to pray. Maybe the same can be said here: Hashem is bringing a Karbon for his "sin" against the moon in diminishing it for complaining, so too we should also feel bad when he diminishing others even if they deserve it and it is ratzone Hashem.

  2. >>>Hashem is bringing a Karbon for his "sin"

    But we bring the korban, not him?

  3. Anonymous12:36 PM

    We're his Shlichim. Shliach HaAdam Kmoto.

  4. In several places, (like Kol Rom III), Reb Moshe says that the mussar haskeil of this Chazal is that when deciding a din Torah or paskening in civil or halachic issues, one must bear in mind that both sides have elements of truth, and the ultimate decision does not delegitimize the truth of the not-favored side. In life, one must make a halachic determination, but one must remember that in halachic matters, eilu ve'eilu, and even in civil disputes, the winning side does not have a monopoly on the truth. The Sun was favored in this dispute, but the Moon had legitimate claims as well, and the refusal to validate legitimate claims, the denial and silencing of a truth, is sinful. It is a necessary evil, kaviyochol.

    In a teshuva, he brings a machlokes Shach and Taz in YD 242. The Taz holds like the Bach that you can pasken like a yochid ke'neged a rabbim -EVEN IN DE'ORAYSOS- in cases of hefsed me'ruboh or tzaar godol. The Shach says that's only true in de'rabbonons. This accentuates the same idea. A decision like one side, even in cases of yochid ke'neged rabbim, does not mean there was no validity or truth on the other side. It only means that when you have to be mach'ria, you are forced into favoring one truth over another.

  5. Anonymous2:06 AM

    I don't get something: Why is it that so many of our yeshivas don't introduce the talmidim to the Maharal? How can it be a bochur can go through yeshiva and not learn the Tiferes Ysroel, Be'er HaGola, Netzach Yisroel, etc? And when C"V ( ;-) ) the yeshivishe mesechta happens to chance upon some agadeta, it's quickly skipped over, with only Rashi. Wouldn't that be a fantastic opportunity to actually bochrim how to approach and understand medrash?

  6. From R' Tzadok, Likkutei Ma'amarim:
    והוא כענין פתחו לי כחודה של מחט ואני אפתח לכם כפתחו של אולם (שיר השירים רבה ה', ג') שהם יפתחו בידיעת דבר זה ואז ה' יתברך פותח חדרי לבם לדעת ולהשכיל בעומק ובוריין של דברים איך הכל מה' יתברך, ובני ישראל טוענים השיבנו אליך ונשובה שמבקשים שגם פתיחת חכמה זו יהיה מה' יתברך. שבאמת שורש נפשות כל בית ישראל הוא מאותיות התורה וממקור האמת וההכרה הברורה שהכל מה' יתברך, רק מפני ההעלם שבהאי עלמא דשיקרא וזדון המלגלגים והאומות הנמצאים בעולם מגיע האופל והחסרון גם להם, וכענין חשכות הלבנה, ולקותה שהוא על ידי שהארץ עומדת ומפסקת בינה ובין החמה כך העולם הזה היא מחיצה של ברזל בין ישראל לאביהם שבשמים שלא יוכלו לקבל אורו, ואנו צועקים מאחר שבאמיתות נקודות הללו שבכל איש ישראל הוא בלתי לה' לבדו וכמו שאמרו (סנהדרין צ'.) כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעולם הבא כמו שנאמר (ישעיה ס', כ"א) ועמך כולם וגו' אם כן מאחר שאתה אבינו באמת ששורש נפשותינו ממך אב הרחמן וגו' ותן אתה בליבנו בינה וגו':