After the drama of the ten plagues, the splitting of the Red Sea, and receiving the Torah at Sinai, the Biblical book of Exodus turns to what seems a much more mundane subject: building the first Jewish temple, a portable sanctuary known as the Mishkan. Where do we find such sanctuary today?
The Bible relates that King Solomon was known as the wisest of men. One verse suggests that he was able to converse about–the more-than-human world:
יְדַבֵּר֮ עַל־הָֽעֵצִים֒ מִן־הָאֶ֙רֶז֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּלְּבָנ֔וֹן וְעַד֙ הָאֵז֔וֹב אֲשֶׁ֥ר יֹצֵ֖א בַּקִּ֑יר וַיְדַבֵּר֙ עַל־הַבְּהֵמָ֣ה וְעַל־הָע֔וֹף וְעַל־הָרֶ֖מֶשׂ וְעַל־הַדָּגִֽים׃
He [King Solomon] discoursed about trees, from the cedar in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall; and he discoursed about the beasts, the birds, the creeping things, and the fishes.
I Kings 5:13
Although most commentators insisted that King Solomon’s communications were about nature, the Aggadah, Jewish legendary tradition, took it more literally: the King Solomon, in his great wisdom, could actually speak to the animals and plants in their own languages.
Two of the most prominent birds in biblical tradition are very different in nature: the dove and the eagle. (more…)
הַחֹ֧דֶשׁ הַזֶּ֛ה לָכֶ֖ם רֹ֣אשׁ חֳדָשִׁ֑ים רִאשׁ֥וֹן הוּא֙ לָכֶ֔ם לְחָדְשֵׁ֖י הַשָּׁנָֽה׃
This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you.
Exodus 12:1 (more…)
וַיַּ֣עַשׂ אֱלֹהִ֔ים אֶת־שְׁנֵ֥י הַמְּאֹרֹ֖ת הַגְּדֹלִ֑ים אֶת־הַמָּא֤וֹר הַגָּדֹל֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַיּ֔וֹם וְאֶת־הַמָּא֤וֹר הַקָּטֹן֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַלַּ֔יְלָה וְאֵ֖ת הַכּוֹכָבִֽים׃
God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule by day and the lesser light to rule by night, and the stars.
The Torah depicts Sun and Moon being created together on the Fourth Day* of Creation. But the Midrash, an ancient genre that includes imaginative “back stories” of the Torah, depicts a legendary struggle for dominance in which the moon wanted to have a greater role.
The midrash about the Moon’s diminishment in the previous post did not remain static over the centuries, but was reinvented to reveal new meanings. Explore the changing face of this ancient legend in depth, through this fascinating article by Melila Hellner-Eshed, the Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem. It’s a bit longer than most of our pathways, but well worth the read.
‘Of What Use is a Candle in Broad Daylight?’ The Reinvention of a Myth
To me, greeting the moon is always a special thrill, like running into a wise and beautiful friend who communicates silently.
Our Hebrew months got their current names in Babylonia over 2500 years ago and are associated with the signs of the Zodaic. Yes, those odd dates listed on your horoscope should be switched out for the Hebrew months, and the signs have resonances in some of the Jewish holidays, for example, Libra/scales and weighing our deeds in the month of Tishrei, which brings Rosh Hashanah. (more…)
In Jewish tradition, the Moon has been associated with women and the feminine. In today’s world, one of the most central social movements for Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) is that of achieving full equality and rights for the world’s women and girls. Some see the advancement of women as a symbolic fulfillment of the old Midrashic tale that the moon (the feminine principal) will someday shine like the sun (the masculine principle). Appropriate then that the phrase “half the sky” has come to symbolize this movement.
In addition to affirming the goodness of seasonal rhythms, the Bible also affirms the seasonal rhythms of human life, as in the well known section of Kohelet / Ecclesiastes:
There is a season for everything, and a time for every desired purpose under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3 לַכֹּ֖ל זְמָ֑ן וְעֵ֥ת לְכָל־חֵ֖פֶץ תַּ֥חַת הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃