Hashem counts Bnei Yisrael once again when they already passed away just as he counted them when they were alive in parshas Vayigash. Whom He loves He counts frequently with names and their totals as we find by the stars מונה מספר לכוכבים (Rashi beginning of Shmos). We can understand Hashem’s love for His nation Am Yisrael and His desire to continue counting them, but why the stars?
Let us go back to the origins of their creation. The passuk says that on the fourth day of creation Hashem created the two great luminaries the sun and the moon. In the next passuk the Torah describes them as the large luminary and the other as the small luminary. What happened to the moon that it became diminished? Chazal say because it complained to Hashem that it doesn’t make sense to have two kings sharing one crown. Hashem then gave it her tikkun to be dependent upon the sun for its light and the moon was also diminished in size.
Hashem did not stop there. Because the moon became dependent upon an outsider to fulfill its function to shine at night, it lost her significance and self esteem which comes with independence. So Hashem created stars to appease the misfortune of the moon. Astronomers have estimated that a typical galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars and there are more than two trillion galaxies. Not bad for an appeasement wouldn’t you say?
It is the fact that the stars appease the moon that Hashem cherishes them so dearly. The passuk says in Yeshaya 59 describing Hashem להחיות רוח שפלים להחיות לב נדכאים He gives life to the low spirit and He gives life to the heart of the oppressed. The Rambam in his Yad Chazakah includes this description of Hashem in two halachos, one in Hilchos Megillah 2,17 and the other is Hilchos Matanas Aniyim 10,5.
מוטב לאדם להרבות במתנות אביונים מלהרבות בסעודתו ובשלוח מנות לרעיו שאין שם שמחה גדולה ומפוארה אלא לשמח לב עניים ויתומים ואלמנות וגרים שהמשמח לב האמללים האלו דומה לשכינה שנאמר (ישעיהו נ”ז) להחיות רוח שפלים ולהחיות לב נדכאים
ואסור לגעור בעני או להגביה קולו עליו בצעקה מפני שלבו נשבר ונדכא והרי הוא אומר לב נשבר ונדכה אלהים לא תבזה ואומר להחיות רוח שפלים ולהחיות לב נדכאים ואוי למי שהכלים את העני אוי לו אלא יהיה לו כאב בין ברחמים בין בדברים שנאמר אב אנכי לאביונים:
By giving self esteem and an infusion of renewed life and strength to the down trodden and indigent individual, you thereby emulate Hashem’s ways because this is how He is described by the Navi. Chazal say that Serach Bas Asher lived hundreds of years because she played the fiddle singing and informing YaakovAvinu that Yosef was still alive. Her tidings brought life into Yaakov after a long period lasting 22 years of mourning and void from ruach hakodesh. By giving him life, midah keneged midah she merited a supernatural extended long life. Massekhet Kallah relates that she is one of the people who entered the Gan Eden while still alive (Kallah Rabati, Chapter 3). In Midrash Koheles Rabbah, Serach is identified as the “wise woman” who, in the midst of Sheva ben Bikhri’s rebellion against King David, demanded that Yoav refrain from bringing disaster to the city of Abel Beth-maacah (see 2 Shmuel, Chapter 20): It was at this time period that she gave life to the entire city of Abel.
שרח בת אשר do you hear the name? We would like to suggest that her name is the acronym of שבת ראש חודש . Both Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh are days when we receive an infusion of renewed chiyus which is characteristic of Serach. On Shabbos after an entire week when we are occupied with physical work which is the curse that Adam received after he sinned by eating from the Aitz Hadaas, we arise from ourשפלות by receiving a neshama yesairah on the day which is the source of all beracha. On Rosh Chodesh when for 15 days we were experiencing the dwindling of the moon’s light and then its total disappearance we receive an infusion of a new beginning with the moon being enlarged day by day until it becomes full again once more.
When Am Yisrael were in Mitzrayim as slaves in bondage, they were downtrodden to say the least. Hashem appeared to Moshe in a burning bush and asked Moshe to be His messenger and redeem His nation. Chazal comment why did Hashem appear in a thorn bush in order to attract Moshe’s attention? They answer to demonstrate that Hashem feels Am Yisrael’s pain, suffering, and lowness of their stature and self esteem at this point during their slavery. It is at this time that Hashem manifests Himself in the description of the Naviלהחיות רוח שפלים ולהחיות לב נדכאים and He commands Moshe to redeem His children.
At the ceremony of being קידוש הלבנה , the minhag is to say שלום עליכם three times to three individuals even though you know them. What is the purpose of this custom? My Rebbi ztl used to talk about the importance of saying ShalomAleichem to a stranger who walks into a shul or Beis Medrash. If we could only imagine the degree of his hesitancy, how nervous and anxious he is as he steps over the threshold into a new environment and knows nobody, we would realize that at that moment he feels like a שפל and a נדכא both in his spirit and heart. That fragile and insecure state of mind and body quickly disappears when one comes over to him, smiles, and says shalom Aleichem what is your name? At that moment the greeter is likened to the Shechinah who breathes new life into the spirit and heart of the stranger by acknowledging his presence.
I would venture to say that at Kiddush Levanah we perform the ceremony of infusing the moon with chizuk and appeasement over the loss of its own light as we say in the nusach
למלאות פגימת הלבנה ולא יהיה בה שום מעוט ויהי אור הלבנה כאור החמה וכאור שבעת ימי בראשית כמו שהיתה קודם מיעוטה
The fact that we sanctify the new moon monthly and not the sun makes the moon regain self esteem and chashivus parallel to the accomplishment of the appeasement of the stars that Hashem surrounded it with.
Part of להחיות רוח שפלים is to say Shalom Aleichem, welcome to a stranger that you meet who comes into your four cubits. You cannot fathom what these two simple words can achieve. Hashem allowed His name Shalom to be used in order to greet someone and thereby give him chiyus. It is as if the moon which disappeared is making once again its debut to us and we show appreciation of its presence amongst us once again. By many the custom is even to dance after reciting the Kiddush Levanah to demonstrate our joy with the return of the Levanah.
One might ask what is the purpose of all this fanfare when only a few days ago I already saw the moon? The answer is that during the last 15 days its status and appearance to us was dwindling day by day until it disappeared completely. During this experience it feels like a שפל ונדכה. Hashem gave the moon chiyusby surrounding it with trillions of trillions of stars. If that is not the ultimate fanfare then I don’t know what it means. The least we can do is welcome and rejoice on its return. The same is true with Shalom Aleichem that one recites to his friend during Kiddush Levanah. Even the people who we just davenedMaariv with we nevertheless grace them with a greeting of Shalom Aleichem. Our Chachamim want us to get used to happily greeting also our regulars that we see every day such as our wives, children, friends, as well as strangers. One never knows what שפלות or brokenness could be hiding in their hearts and minds. Everyone can use an encouraging word or acknowledgment that you recognize their existence and that they have a secure place in your heart, in your mind and in your concern.
When Moshe ascended Har Sinai to receive the Torah, the gemarah (Shabbos 89) relates
ואמר רבי יהושע בן לוי בשעה שעלה משה למרום מצאו להקדוש ברוך הוא שהיה קושר כתרים לאותיות אמר לו משה אין שלום בעירך אמר לפניו כלום יש עבד שנותן שלום לרבו
that Hashem asked him אין שלום בעירך In your city you don’t greet someone with Shalom? Moshe responded that a servant in front of his master does not initiate the Shalom. From here we deduce that if the scenario does not involve an eved with his master then the greeting of Shalom Aleichem is not only expected but required.
This gemarah is fascinating. Moshe Rabbeinu ascends to Har Sinai and one would expect that the dialogue between Hashem and Moshe at this particular encounter would be deeply esoteric since Moshe finds Hashem tying crowns to the letters of the Torah. Yet their conversation immediately focuses on derecheretz concerning how to greet another individual. That is how important this middah of להחיות is to Hashem.
I will end with a true story that happened in Shor Yoshuv when I was a Rebbi there. My Rebbi Rav Shlomo Freifeld just finished expounding on the above gemarah of Hashem questioning Moshe אין שלום בעירך? At that very moment a Rosh Yeshiva entered the Beis Medrash probably to converse with my Rebbi. On the heels of my Rebbi’s fiery shmuz about giving Shalom to a stranger, literally the entire Beis Medrash suddenly arose and walked over to this Rosh Yeshivah and gave him a Shlaom Aleichem. Timing could not have been better! It was as if this stranger had been hit by a tsunami of להחיות. He stood there frozen where he was standing shaking every one’s hand as they gave him a warm welcome. I guess he couldn’t help himself and he looked up to the ceiling and then down again and exclaimed loudly “What is going on over here, Kiddush Levanah“? I am sure that this Rosh Yeshivah will never even forget that pump up of chashivus for the rest of his life.
The nusach of Kiddush Levanah says
תנא דבי רבי ישמעאל אלמלי לא זכו ישראל אלא להקביל פני אביהם שבשמים פעם אחת בחודש דים
If only once a month we receive the face of our father in heaven it would be enough. As the Rambam says which we brought above אב אנכי לאביונים Hashem is a father to the poor. If we want Hashem to act like our father then we too must act like a father by emulating His fatherly ways.
When Neil Armstrong stepped on moon he said his famous line “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Even according to their definition that landing on the moon is a giant leap for mankind, has that giant leap made man more kind? Did he become more sensitive to the needs of others, more considerate, thoughtful, and selfless towards his fellow man? In contrast Am Yisrael stands on earth and we look upwards to the moon every month and we daven for the moon’s tikkun and by doing so we focus on becoming DIVINE, kinder and chessedik to everyone we encounter. Shalom Aleichem Aleichem Shalom.
The artwork displayed is by the talented artist Boris Shapiro and is for sale by Rishon Art Gallery contact 201-791-2250 to inquire.