waning moon

Diminishing the Moon and Israel

God made the two great lights, the greater light to dominate the day and the lesser light to dominate the night, and the stars.

Genesis 1:16 (JPS Tanakh)

R. Simeon b. Pazzi pointed out a contradiction [between verses]. One verse says: And God made the two great lights, and immediately the verse continues: The greater light . . . and the lesser light. The moon said unto the Holy One, blessed be He, ‘Sovereign of the Universe! Is it possible for two kings to wear one crown’? He answered: ‘Go then and make thyself smaller’. ‘Sovereign of the Universe’! cried the moon, ‘Because I have suggested that which is proper must I then make myself smaller’? He replied: ‘Go and thou wilt rule by day and by night’. ‘But what is the value of this’? cried the moon; ‘Of what use is a lamp in broad daylight’? He replied: ‘Go. Israel shall reckon by thee the days and the years’. ‘But it is impossible’, said the moon, ‘to do without the sun for the reckoning of the seasons, as it is written: And let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years’. ‘Go. The righteous shall be named after thee as we find, Jacob the Small, Samuel the Small, David the Small’, On seeing that it would not be consoled the Holy One, blessed be He, said: ‘Bring an atonement for Me for making the moon smaller’. This is what was meant by R. Simeon b. Lakish when he declared: Why is it that the he-goat offered on the new moon is distinguished in that there is written concerning it unto the Lord? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, said: Let this he-goat be an atonement for Me for making the moon smaller.

-Tractate Chullin 60b

True, no human being ever heard the above conversation between the Holy One and the moon. We know of it only through our tradition. But we can actually see with our own eyes that very legend applying to that body which has been symbolized by the moon — Knesset Yisrael.

-Rabbi Moshe Avigdor Amiel
Chapter 5: The Moon and Knesset Yisrael, p.25
Translated by Kadish Goldberg
Jews, Judaism, & Genesis: Living in His Image According to the Torah

I read this chapter last Tuesday after I reviewed the latest set of comments on my recent blog post Upon Reading a Rant About “Messianic Jewishism” and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the general themes involved in said-blog post. While I don’t ascribe great credence to the idea that the Moon and God actually had a conversation, I think there’s a principle we can derive from the midrash on the “relationship” between the Moon and “Knesset Yisrael” or the Assembly of Israel. It’s the same principle the sages have derived.

How can Israel be compared to the Moon, the lesser of two “great lights?” Think about the relationship between the Moon and the Sun as compared to the relationship between Israel and God.

An adult sitting at his father’s table is considered a minor; a minor independent of his father’s table is considered an adult.

-from Tractate Kiddushin

yom kippur katanJust as the Moon is always dependent upon the Sun for light, and the Moon’s light would be immediately extinguished should the Sun “hide his face” so to speak, so too would Israel be extinguished should God hide His face from her.

And yet, the diminishing of the Moon is not one that is performed on it from outside but an act which the Moon, upon the command of God, performs upon herself, reducing herself in relation to the Sun and the stars.

The life of the moon is marked by a terrible tragedy. The Holy One, at first glance, seems to unequivocally accept her argument. He fully admits that her claim is reasonable, but as an expression of commendation for her just position, He demands more of her no more and no less than, “Go and diminish yourself.”

-R. Amiel, p.27

Rav Amiel compares this to Rosh Chodesh (festival of the New Moon), for on Erev Rosh Chodesh, “Jews offer prayer and supplication as they do on Yom Ha-kippurim, the Day of Atonement. This is Yom Kippur Kattan service” (ibid p.26). Just as the new or reborn Moon is in a greatly diminished state, so too is the rebirth of Israel (and keep in mind, Rav Amiel wrote this in the 19th century, long before the rebirth of the modern state of Israel).

R. Amiel speaks of the pogroms and other offenses the nations have committed against the Jewish people, and the utter dependence upon the leaders and rulers of the various nations in which “Knesset Yisrael” finds herself in, even for existence. Israel has been exiled, Jerusalem is in ruins, the Temple has been destroyed, the people have been scattered. Hostile churches (historically) have burned her volumes of Talmud, her Torah scrolls, and her synagogues.

However, even as the least among the nations as she currently may be, there is a consolation:

On the one hand, we are the smallest of all the nations, mocked and despised among the nations. On the other hand, we occupy “The Eastern Seat,” the seat of honor.

-ibid, p.28

The Jewish Paul…my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Romans 9:3-5 (NASB)

Rav. Amiel says something similar:

Israel orders the times for all nations and tongues. All our seasons, such as our “Festival of Freedom,” our “Festival of the Giving of the Torah,” are celebrated by all enlightened nations. In matters of time, we are emulated by all, even though sometimes the imitation is blemished by modifications — for example, the Sunday imitation of the Sabbath day — but it universally acknowledged that the original is ours.

Timewise, we are the most powerful of nations, the deciding factor. “Go and let Israel determine the days and years by you.” The nations’ calendar is based upon the birth date of a certain Jew.

-Amiel, p.28

The Rav, even in the admission of the lowered and diminished state of “Knesset Yisrael,” declares that in her weakness, Israel is great, for the rest of the nations follow her through (imperfect) imitation.

But he goes on:

This is our only consolation. It is, of course, only a partial consolation.

The moon “was not appeased.” Nor is Knesset Yisrael appeased. She thirsts for salvation and redemption, weeping bitterly, “When I remember this, O God, I moan…

-ibid, p.29

And does God not hear the cries of the oppressed and act in their defense?

“Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy, Now I will arise,” says the LORD; “I will set him in the safety for which he longs.”

Psalm 12:5 (NASB)

Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them.

Exodus 3:9

…but, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them.’ For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers.

Jeremiah 26:15

JewishI know people who criticized me and the topic of my other blog post don’t see themselves as in any way oppressing Israel or the Jewish people. They certainly have no deliberate intent to do so. In many ways, they see themselves as doing the opposite, lifting the Jewish people up and joining them by performing the identical mitzvot as an obligation in the merit of Messiah.

You might say to yourself that if God commanded Israel to diminish herself as He did (in midrash) to the Moon, should not Israel and the Jewish people be humble and elevate the Gentile to a higher level than the Jews, offering the Gentiles all of the mitzvot; the mitzvah of Shabbat, of Kashrut, of tzitzit, of tefillin, of the Moadim? Shouldn’t Israel be “fair” and at least share all of her mitzvot? Don’t they all belong to us (Gentiles) now anyway?

Maybe not, and we cannot consider Israel diminished forever, just as the sages have said, “for every descent, there is an ascent.”

Therefore, Heaven forbid that we discontinue the custom of Yom Kippur Kattan. Even in Eretz Yisrael of today, Knesset Yisrael is still compared to the moon. And so it will be until that hoped for time when “The light of the moon will be as bright as the sun, and the light of the sun as the light of the seven days.”

-Amiel, p.30

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

John 8:12

And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.

Revelation 21:23

Moshiach is the light of Israel and the light of the world. Will he come to diminish Israel or to raise her up as the head of all the nations? As the people of the rest of the nations of the world who are called by Hashem’s Name, are we to continue to diminish Israel in disobedience to the Master? Why wait for his return? We can raise Israel up now by acknowledging her role and her place in the redemptive plan of God. We must do this now, lest we be counted among Israel’s enemies and even as disciples, be diminished ourselves in Messianic days.

Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them.Small plant

Zechariah 14:16-17

Admittedly, I’m playing a little fast and loose with my interpretation of that last passage of scripture, but do you really want to take the chance that I am wrong and God will not deliver consequences upon those of us to call ourselves disciples and yet fail to elevate Knesset Yisrael above all the peoples of the Earth?

There will be another “follow up” blog post on this subject tomorrow morning.

10 thoughts on “Diminishing the Moon and Israel”

  1. Israel will cover the entire world as it is written:

    “…and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring.”

    And again:

    “(1) Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth, and shout, you who are not in labor! Because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her that has a husband, for the Lord has spoken. (2) Enlarge the site of your tent, and the coverings of your curtains; make it firm; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. (3) because you must spread out to the right and to the left, and your offspring will inherit the nations and will inhabit the cities that have become desolate,”

    This means that laws of Israel were intended for all the people of the world. And we only have to look at the Prophets to see that one day all the peoples will go to Jerusalem just so that they can learn the law.

    This is the will of G-d and the will of G-d IS Law.

    So what if YOU’RE wrong?

    1. My, my, Peter, but don’t you jump oh so high to reach your exaggerated conclusions! Spreading out left and right and east and west does not necessarily mean covering the entire planet, nor does it imply ownership of all that territory, nor does it imply its annexation and application of Israeli law to it. Israelis have, in fact, spread out pretty widely with business opportunities and advanced commercial and medical and pharmaceutical technology which is sold throughout much of the world. Enlarging the site of our tent (i.e., temporary dwelling) is exactly what the world at large is criticizing Israel for, even though the scriptures are clear about what constitutes Israeli territory granted to us in perpetuity by HaShem. Muslim Arabs, in particular, resist Jews reclaiming this territory because it denies that Allah is sovereign to prevent these infidel Jews from (re)occupying presumptively Arab lands. Even the notion of inheriting the nations doesn’t make them Jewish lands or apply to them Jewish law. Just as gentiles will come up to Jerusalem to learn from Jews, Jews will also travel to and live in foreign lands to provide knowledge and wisdom, and this need not be constrained to religious topics but may refer also to the technological ones cited above. Even when this process is connected with Messiah’s administration from Jerusalem over the entire earth, gentiles will not necessarily become responsible for any more of the Torah than is already applicable to them under the Noa’hide framework, augmented perhaps by a little Avrahamic faith and voluntary Is.56 extra motivation. The Torah’s principles of justice have already influenced many of the world’s legal systems, and will undoubtedly do so even more under the Messiah. This is what is meant by possessing the gates of (even) our enemies. The gates of ancient cities were the locus of their law courts. The Torah is HaShem’s covenant with Jews; it is not something that is ever intended to be applied in its entirety to the rest of the nations. A subset of its precepts is appropriate for all humanity. But Jews will remain distinct as long as the Torah remains valid, which is as long as the present heavens and earth endure. In Zecharyah, we see that nations surrounding Israel must come to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot or suffer drought, but they do so as gentiles from foreign nations and not as Jews. The will of HaShem for Jews is not unrelated to His will for all humanity, but Jews bear additional constraints and responsibilities because of the Torah covenant given at Sinai on stone and parchment and internalized on Jewish hearts when made “new” with the Jewish messiah-king. But one cannot broadly brush it all upon the rest of humanity if one reads its stipulations carefully.

  2. James, thank you so much for your excellent observations. Unfortunately, on contrary, there is this delusionists abound. And us you rightly say, this people delusionists is just thieves, taking what not belong to them. Yet, despite frustrations, like in your previous post, we will see very soon what will be with all those delusionists and pseudo hebraik lunatics. I wonder where then they will be, and will they (“hebraic” lunatics) stand with me a Jew at the gas chambers so to say. May Hashem make you wise and blessed.

  3. @Peter: If I’m going to err, I’d rather err on the side of humility than self-entitlement and self-aggrandizement. If I’m wrong, then I would prefer to be wrong in the spirit of Luke 14:7-11. That said, and in answer to your question, I have been wrong before. When I discovered my mistake, I left any affiliation to the One Law/One Torah movement and dedicated my studies to understanding the true role of the Gentile in relation to God’s promises to His people Israel, the Jewish people. Hence the creation of this blog and what I’ve been writing about since that time.

    @Eli: You’re welcome. I try not to engage in any name calling or labeling (admittedly, I’m not always successful) of those who disagree with me. Some people who adhere to a One Law philosophy do so with honest intent and are at least open to dialogue with those of us to see a more differentiated set of roles between Jews and Gentiles in the ekklesia of Messiah. I agree that when Messiah returns, he will unequivocally set the standards by which the Jewish and Gentile disciples are expected to observe. I suspect that though he will “rule with a rod of iron” (Revelation 2:27, 19:15), he will be more compassionate and gentle with us than we often are with each other.

    @PL: As I understand Peter’s viewpoints, he considered the Gentiles in Messiah to be equally “Israel” along with the Jewish people, so he claims equal rights, privileges, and obligations with the Jews. Obviously, he and I don’t see eye to eye. I do want to say that I see the Noahide laws as applicable to all Gentiles everywhere, not just specifically to Gentiles in Messiah. I believe that we “Messianic Gentiles” are held to a somewhat higher standard than the rest of humanity by virtue of our faith in Messiah and our connection to the New Covenant blessings based on the Abrahamic Covenant. Exactly what those standards are will likely be debated up to the time of Messiah’s return, but in addition to the “weightier matters of the Law” (Matthew 23:23) such as feeding the hungry and visiting the sick (and I’ve said this before), I believe part of our obligation is to support Jewish return to the Torah and their zealousness for the mitzvot as a requirement for Messiah’s return and the establishment of his Kingdom.

    1. Ahh, well, there you touch on a difference between legal obligations that apply to everyone, such as the Noa’hide standards, and moral ones that apply to more enlightened souls on a voluntary basis that seeks spiritual growth and maturity as well as improved societal conditions. Even more is implied for non-Jews who actually seek as a primary goal the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven, which is, I think, where the foreigners of Is.56 fit into the picture.

  4. Proclaim Liberty,

    Re: “My, my, Peter, but don’t you jump oh so high to reach your exaggerated conclusions!”

    It’s also Paul’s conclusion, Philo’s conclusion, the Sages’ conclusion. Observe:

    “For not through law is the promise to Abraham, or to his seed, of his being heir of the world [kleronomon auton einai kosmou], but through the righteousness of faith,” (Romans 4:13)

    “(21) May your hands be strong and your mind be happy with your son Jacob because I love him much more than all of my sons; for he will be blessed forever and his descendants will fill the entire earth. (22) If a man is able to count the sands of the earth, in the same way his descendants, too, will be counted. (23) May all the blessings with which the Lord blessed me and my descendants belong to Jacob and his descendants for all time.” (Jub. 19:21-23)

    “May my son Jacob and all his sons be blessed to the most high Lord throughout all ages. May the Lord give you righteous descendants, and may he sanctify some of your sons within the entire earth. May the nations serve you, and may all the nations bow before your descendants…May he strengthen and bless you; may you inherit all the earth, ” Jub. 22:11-14

    “I am the Lord who created heaven and earth. I will increase your numbers and multiply you very much. Kings will come from you, and they will rule wherever mankind has set foot. I will give your descendants all of the land that is beneath the sky. They will rule over all the nations as they wish. Afterwards, they will gain the entire earth, and they will possess it [inherit it] forever,” (Jub. 32:18-19)

    (Also see 4 Ezra 6:59, 1 Enoch 5:7, and Sir. 44:21)

    Proclaim Liberty, you should know by now that I don’t say things that I can’t support using authoritative Jewish sources. This is why the UMJC leadership refuse to engage me online.

    And let me just say that I love you very much. May G-d richly bless you! I enjoy talking Torah with you.



    1. But don’t you see, Peter, how huge a leap it is from promises for Israel’s growth and prosperity to a notion of Israel taking over the whole world and doing away with the very existence of non-Israeli, non-Jewish nations? (That is not a valid interpretation of the hyperbolic projection of “inheriting all the earth”, just as Rav Yeshua’s reference to the meek inheriting the earth does not mean that they will take over as the new owners. That wouldn’t be very “meek”, now, would it?) Can you see how such a mistaken notion reflects the worst fear-mongering of anti-Semitic documents like the “Protocols of the learned Elders of Zion”? Can you not see how such a notion, that obliterates distinction between Jews and other nations, invalidates the scriptures (particularly prophecies) which continue to refer to that distinction as an ongoing characteristic of humanity even into the millennial kingdom era?

      I get the impression that, contrary to the “Protocols”, you view the notion of everyone being included within Israel as a positive and beneficial situation. However, that idea was rejected explicitly by the Jerusalem Council of Emissaries in Acts 15, wherein the opening verse of the chapter presented the mistaken view that gentiles must convert and be circumcised in order to be “saved”, and the chapter continues to relate the deliberations that resulted in the decision to clarify that they were not to do so, that they were not to be obligated to the whole of Torah as are Jews. To put it simply, they were not to become Jews as part of the nation of “Israel”. They were to become redeemed members of other nations, so that HaShem could be shown as G-d of all nations and not merely of the one particular nation of Israel.

      I don’t know anything about your attempts to interact with “UMJC leadership” online, but if you commonly engage in irrational leaps to assertions that ignore logical principles and scriptural perspectives one could hardly blame them if they did ignore you.

  5. Proclaim Liberty,

    Philo’s commentary of Gen. of 28:14 says:

    “And this, in accordance with the Divine promises, is broadening out to the very bounds of the universe, and renders its possessor inheritor of the four quarters of the world, reaching to them all, to East, and West, and South, and North; for it is said, ‘It shall spread abroad to the West and to the South and to the North and to the East.”

    You say it’s irrational to reach such conclusions. And yet this is how your ancestors for thousands of years have interpreted these prophecies. I’ve shown you Scriptural sources, ancient Jewish writings, Apostolic sources. And yet somehow I’m the irrational one for having brought it up! : )

    And if you want to get into Acts 15, this is what we learn from this passage: Gentiles are now part of the People Called by His Name (and the Prophets say that ONLY Israel is called by His Name). And scholars have also noted how James quotes (via gezerah shavah) from such Prophecies as the following:

    “And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee,” (Zechariah 2:11)

    This is direct proof that entire nations join His People. So if we consider that Scripture says Israel will encompass the ENTIRE earth and that the nations will join His People (Israel) then there you have it:

    A global Messianic Kingdom of Israel.

    1. If there is any critically important advice I might offer, Peter, it would be for you to learn the differences between Torah, nevua, midrash, and sod. Part of your difficulty seems to be conflating different sorts of references as if they were ontologically eigenvalued. If those last two words (or any other terms I’ve cited) are unfamiliar to you, begin by looking them up. You will find that there are multiple applications of the notion “to inherit”, and there is a critical difference between being “joined to the Lord” and “joined to Israel”. There are also differences in context to consider such as the difference between the present era and the period called the “day of the Lord”. Such details are critical to proper interpretation.

  6. Peter,

    you quoted 4:13 where it says:

    “For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

    The above verse has nothing to do with the Torah (G-d’s moral teachings) for Israel etc… what it is speaking of within context (please read from Rom.4:9-5) is about either Gentiles or Jews wanted to be justified by circumcision (i.e., just by being Jewish). Rav Shaul is teaching that what matters is emunah, real emunah; that whether one is a Jew (circumcised) or a Gentile (uncircumcised) he can come to G-d in Faith and be obedient to Him. It’s not about an elite race or group, it’s all about obedience wherever G-d calls him.

    “For neither circumcision (being Jewish) counts for anything nor uncircumcision (Gentile), but keeping the commandments of G-d.” – (1.Cor.7:19)

    Peace to all,
    in Mashiach Tzidkenu may he be fully revealed soon and in our days!

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