Astronomy htm 35fe2b5f

Yesterday, Montreal, Canada's second largest city, was the focus of of thousands of tourists and many followers of the great , once in a century, 'event", a total solar  eclipse .It was a sunny , cloudless day, and we were in the direct path.Tourists flocked from far away.

Moreover ,it seems that this eclipse,was in many ways special. 

"The moon will be at a point in its orbit that’s comparatively close to Earth in April, making the moon appear particularly large. As a result, for anyone fortunate enough to make it to the path of totality — where the moon completely blocks out the sun’s disk — it will be an especially dark eclipse that will last for nearly 4½ minutes. That’s almost two minutes longer than the Great American Eclipse of 2017 (SN: 8/11/17).

What’s more, the sun will be close to solar maximum in 2024. That’s the peak of its roughly 11-year activity cycle. "

For ourselves as Torah Jews, we don't run after crowds and "exciting events', our time is dedicated for service of haShem ,in Torah, prayer, charity, and ,hopefully with meaningful work.

And there is not even a brocho to be made for this "event !"

And yet .....

On June 29, 1927, there was a total solar eclipse visible in Eastern Europe. An account was published of how Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin, better known as the Chafetz Chaim, reacted to the event:

“And the Chafetz Chaim taps again with his right hand on the table with an expression of victory, and smiling he adds, “They should come to see. It is a mitzvah to see the sun eclipsed, to actually see that a creation was actually formed by the Creator…And he taps lightly again with his right hand, a quiet smile… [they] had already prepared for the Chafetz Chaim, a special triply thick, darkened pair of glasses which properly fit the good and trustworthy eyes of the holy and vaunted elder. The righteous one does this [looking at the eclipse] with holy trepidation, exactly as he would silently gaze at his chanukiah, from it he does not remove his eyes so long as there are sparkling remnants of oil…And behold the darkness has eclipsed the entire sphere, as if a large well of ink has spilled and filled the space … a strange darkness, not that of the twilight nor even like the thick darkness of night…Behold, a black curtain has been stretched on the face of the Sun; there remains not even one red streak. And behold the Wonder. Behold, behold, once again, born is the new sun — like the six days of creation…”

I saw that the Lubavitcher Rebbe, a'h, quoted as the eclipse is associated with "bad omens", there can't be a blessing.It is a time for introspection and teshuva.

And truthfully,there is a widespread custom on Erev Rosh Chodesh (as every solar eclipse falls on erev chodesh) to say Yom Kippur Katan , (even for many to fast). So, for sure, this year especially , when the world is in flame with anti semetism (right here in Montreal and Quebec , we have seen such expressions), dangerous wars, and in Israel itself,wars against our raison d^etre (especially in Israel), the Torah , we need to give this "event" some thought.

Moreover,  this Rosh Chodesh is special , ( "Hachodesh haze rosh hachodesh lachem"), nissan , the month of Redemption,is special.We renew the month, by our "Kiddush hachodesh".It is up to us, not the stars , and in the hands of our sages who renew the month (when the Temple will be speedily rebuilt) with witnesses.

Aish has an excellent essay (though it begs some questions)

"the Rabbis of the Talmud encouraged the study of astronomy and the performance of astronomical calculations as being a mitzvah, a religious precept. “Anyone who knows how to calculate astronomical times and constellations and does not do so, the verse says about him: “They do not take notice of the work of God, and they do not see His handiwork” (Isaiah 5:12)…. From where is it derived that there is a mitzvah incumbent upon a person to calculate astronomical seasons and constellations? As it was stated: “And you shall guard and perform, for it is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations” (Deuteronomy 4:6).15

 Some explain that the religious duty of performing astronomical calculations is based on these calculations indicate that the world is rational and understandable to the human mind which is a strong argument for a rational and purposeful Creator, who is interested in a relationship with the human being."

 'So the prediction of the eclipse with complete accuracy and the plotting of its path of visibility are, in the words of the Talmud, a religious precept, a mitzvah, and in the words of Einstein, “a miracle, or eternal mystery."

Just a few problems

If so, why, how can eclipses be a bad omen? This Does not sound to me to be very "rational (especailly since it is be predicted with mathematic  certitude ).  "

 “The Sages taught: When the sun is eclipsed it is a bad omen for the entire world. To what is this matter comparable? It is comparable to a king of flesh and blood who prepared a feast for his servants and placed a lantern before them to illuminate the hall. He became angry at them and said to his servant: Take the lantern from before them and seat them in darkness.”

Obviously , many chachamim deal with this problem (the sages of the talmud, already knew hwo to compute these "events")


 "The Maharal of Prague,30 the great 16th century thinker Rabbi Yehuda Loew, maintains that the Sages understood that the phenomenon is natural, but the Talmud is explaining the “reason of the reason,” that is, why God created the orbits in such a way as to produce occasional eclipses. He explains that light symbolizes reality and existence, and darkness symbolizes chaos and illusion. Because God gave humanity freedom of will, He knew that sin would be inevitable and that people would often choose chaos over order, and illusion over reality. He created a system that would remind us regularly that our choices can create darkness, even at times when there should be light, and that our free will choices can create a barrier between us and the Divine light, but can also allow Divine light to be seen here "

 I'm not sure (plus I did not have the opportunity to learn the Maharal inside), but perhaps we can rephrase these thoughts a little for added appreciation.

(First of all, this is the classic teaching of the Maharal; our sages are not teaching us science; they are giving us understanding of the spiritual realm and how it is "reflected" in our physical world.) 

This world was created as a place where we can continually grow in service of haShem, where we can step by firm, confident  step build of this physical world, a Tabernacle , but somehow, this was never the reality.At the end of Creation Hashem finds that the world is "Tov Meod." Chazal say , the "meod" refers to the yetzer here, to death (without the yetzer here, no one would "build'; without death, there cannot be a rebirth )

As I said, I did not learn the Maharal inside, but I doubt he said light "symbolozes" existence.Light is , for us,actual reality, existence ,or at least much closer .

HaShem created for us two luminaries , the sun and the moon.For us, the sun is the ultimate source of light  , but sometimes that fails us and disappears ; the other luminarytakes over.Darkness itself is a creation.

Most people of the world today live by the sun (the visible world) The Ishmalites, by the moon (the invisible).we understand that haShem put both before us to utilize with wisdom Sometimes , though , we can fail in our mission.

It happens and we do teshuva and merit rebirth ;rebirth for us as individuals and ,b'ezer hashem , as a People.

There is by the way, an even greater problem for us to challnge our undertsanding  appreciation of  the eclipse as believing Jews.

As some scientists put it, the eclipse as we know it is due to a wierd "coincidence" 

We know that although the moon is about 400 times smaller than the sun, it appears to us to be same size because it is also about 400 times closer to the earth, hence its apparent size is the same as the sun, thus enabling a total eclipse of the sun by the moon.

* (I stumbled onto a religous physicist 's explanation with  powers of 7 .I lost the article, and cannot find it , to my great grief grief) *

I'm not sure it is our job to answer all questions , but perhaps,if I am correct , this will help to strengthen our emuna

We actually find 400 many times and places in Tanaach and in our history.

When Yaakov sent malachim (messengers ) to his brother esau, the emssengers returned to esau was coming with 400 men (which Yaakov understood to be for war).The anticipated war never happenend.Yaakov was able to turn his brother's heart

around to love (and if you look at the commentary of the Netziv, it was real for both brothers)

Many years later , when Dovid  was fighting Amalek (the illegitamate  son of Esau) , he had with him, 400 warriors.

Without going into a long list , eg. 40 days of gestation, 400 years of golus, and many more (If I remember correctly , the Turks controlled "palestine for 400 years and then 400 years later, we "won" independence), and without learning (and reviewing) from the souce, perhaps we can say (according to the "derech "of the Maharal) a basic appreciation.

The possuk in Breishis 2,10, "A river went out of Eden to supply the gan, and from there it seperated to 4 heads.(take a look in the Malbim for a beautiful explanation)

Originally the purpose of the river was to supply the Gan, so that Adam could live and grow as haShem wanted, but there was also the possibility that Adam may have to leave the Gan and seperate into many worldy life styles

Hashem is one ,unity ; seperation into many directions  is the opposite, and yet that too can be rotzon haShem . eventually it comes back to the One .4 directions ,times 10 (unity), times 10 (unity in higher spheres.)

We have 3 levels, nefesh, ruach, neshema.

* the song at the end of the haggaddah-  echod my yodeah... arba my yodeah, arba ani yodea- arba imahos

the little I have been zoche to see in the sifrey kodesh, the imahos are Din, are Malchus (they keep the neshema, the home pure), so the spreading out of "4" ultimately brings "malchus" to the world, so to speak "plan  B', outside of Gan Eden , in fact the Netsiv says this was the sin of "dor Haflaga" *

A guten Chodesh,

May we merit speedily , the coming of Moshiach