Sunday, 15th December 2019
 
Chazaq

By R' Boruch Yonah Lipton  

When we begin Sefer Bereshis on Simchas Torah, we will read about the creation of the heavens. Genesis 1:16 says, "And G-d made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; and the stars." Rashi comments on the fact that the Torah first refers to both sun and moon as "great," but then refers to the moon as "lesser." He explains "They were created equal, but the moon was reduced because it complained and said, 'It is impossible for two kings to use one crown.' " There are two possible conclusions that can be made about the moon from this aggadah, which has its source in the Talmud. One is that the moon is smaller than it once was. The other is that the moon is dimmer than it once was. While our belief in the teachings of our rabbis is not dependent on scientific evidence, when scientists arrive at the same conclusions as our sages, as ultimately they must, it gives us a renewed appreciation of our Torah's accuracy. This is true concerning the aggada brought by Rashi above; recent discoveries show that the moon has both decreased in size and grown dimmer. 

Images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, NASA's unmanned moon satellite, reveal forteen previously unknown formations called "scarps." Scarps are cliffs that are were formed on the moon's crust as the moon cooled.

Thomas Watters, a planetary scientist at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum who led the study, compares the formation of scarps on the moon to wrinkles that form on the skin of an old apple.  As the apple dries out it loses volume and the skin gets wrinkly. Scarps were previously known to have existed in the equatorial region of the moon, but the new evidence places them in locations all over the moon. This shows that the moon as an entity has decreased in size.

There are different opinions concerning how much the moon has shrunk. Watters thinks the evidence points to shrinkage of less than one kilometer in radius. Others, like retired lunar and planetary scientist Alan Binder of the Lunar Research Institute in Tuscon, think the moon may have shrunk as much as five kilometers. While an additional one or five kilometers would not make the moon as large as the sun, we must remember that the Torah speaks in the language of men. The aggada teaches that the moon was once equal to the sun from our perspective. From Earth, the sun and moon appear to be the same size. The aggada apparently teaches that the moon has decreased from its original size, a fact that the new evidence confirms.

A different way to understand the aggada is that the moon decreased in its brightness. Although Watters believes the moon at its origin was cool and only partially molten, Binder believes evidence shows that the moon was once completely molten. A completely molten moon would have appeared much brighter than the moon does at present. As the moon is much closer to Earth than is the sun, it is possible that the brightness of a molten moon would have rivaled the sun's brightness. Now that the moon is no longer molten, its brightness has decreased.

We accept aggados like the one Rashi brings above for several reasons. Tanchuma (Ki Sisa 18) tells us that when G-d gave the Torah to Moses He also gave him the aggados.  Rashi tells us that that rejecting a midrash is so serious that it results in the loss of one's portion in the world to come (see Rashi on Sanhedrin 90a d"h Haci garsinan ha'omer). Our acceptance of aggados is not dependent upon scientific proof that supports them. Nevertheless, when modern science verifies what our sages taught long ago, we have one more reason to declare that our Holy Torah is true. 


Boruch Yonah Lipton is the author of The Song at the Sea According to Rashi and The Sin of the Golden Calf According to Rashi, both available by contacting the author at boruchyonah@yahoo.com.

 

By R' Boruch Yonah Lipton  

When we begin Sefer Bereshis on Simchas Torah, we will read about the creation of the heavens. Genesis 1:16 says, "And G-d made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; and the stars." Rashi comments on the fact that the Torah first refers to both sun and moon as "great," but then refers to the moon as "lesser." He explains "They were created equal, but the moon was reduced because it complained and said, 'It is impossible for two kings to use one crown.' " There are two possible conclusions that can be made about the moon from this aggadah, which has its source in the Talmud. One is that the moon is smaller than it once was. The other is that the moon is dimmer than it once was. While our belief in the teachings of our rabbis is not dependent on scientific evidence, when scientists arrive at the same conclusions as our sages, as ultimately they must, it gives us a renewed appreciation of our Torah's accuracy. This is true concerning the aggada brought by Rashi above; recent discoveries show that the moon has both decreased in size and grown dimmer. 

Images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, NASA's unmanned moon satellite, reveal forteen previously unknown formations called "scarps." Scarps are cliffs that are were formed on the moon's crust as the moon cooled.

Thomas Watters, a planetary scientist at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum who led the study, compares the formation of scarps on the moon to wrinkles that form on the skin of an old apple.  As the apple dries out it loses volume and the skin gets wrinkly. Scarps were previously known to have existed in the equatorial region of the moon, but the new evidence places them in locations all over the moon. This shows that the moon as an entity has decreased in size.

There are different opinions concerning how much the moon has shrunk. Watters thinks the evidence points to shrinkage of less than one kilometer in radius. Others, like retired lunar and planetary scientist Alan Binder of the Lunar Research Institute in Tuscon, think the moon may have shrunk as much as five kilometers. While an additional one or five kilometers would not make the moon as large as the sun, we must remember that the Torah speaks in the language of men. The aggada teaches that the moon was once equal to the sun from our perspective. From Earth, the sun and moon appear to be the same size. The aggada apparently teaches that the moon has decreased from its original size, a fact that the new evidence confirms.

A different way to understand the aggada is that the moon decreased in its brightness. Although Watters believes the moon at its origin was cool and only partially molten, Binder believes evidence shows that the moon was once completely molten. A completely molten moon would have appeared much brighter than the moon does at present. As the moon is much closer to Earth than is the sun, it is possible that the brightness of a molten moon would have rivaled the sun's brightness. Now that the moon is no longer molten, its brightness has decreased.

We accept aggados like the one Rashi brings above for several reasons. Tanchuma (Ki Sisa 18) tells us that when G-d gave the Torah to Moses He also gave him the aggados.  Rashi tells us that that rejecting a midrash is so serious that it results in the loss of one's portion in the world to come (see Rashi on Sanhedrin 90a d"h Haci garsinan ha'omer). Our acceptance of aggados is not dependent upon scientific proof that supports them. Nevertheless, when modern science verifies what our sages taught long ago, we have one more reason to declare that our Holy Torah is true. 


Boruch Yonah Lipton is the author of The Song at the Sea According to Rashi and The Sin of the Golden Calf According to Rashi, both available by contacting the author at boruchyonah@yahoo.com.