One afternoon, I noticed the striking appearance of a full moon in the light of day. A few days later when reviewing a famous midrash in Bereishit about the creation of the celestial bodies, the inherent message of a magnificent full moon’s obvious presence in the daytime sky suddenly dawned on me.
The midrash teaches us that originally, both the sun and moon were created equal in size. Hoping to gain power over its counterpart, the moon approached G-d and argued that two kings of equal power cannot rule over one dominion. G-d understood the moon’s intent, and punished it by diminishing the moon’s size and brightness (Hulin 60b). It is told that at the end of days the moon will regain its former glory. Its strength will be of equal power to that of the sun, as it was originally.
Rav Dessler explains that moon is called Levana which comprises the word lev/heart representing women, who possess a distinct emotional understanding given to her to impart light into the world. The sun/chama, when its letters are rearranged is moach /brain representing intellectual ability which has been man’s most valuable asset in contributing to the world.
Granted men and women have both qualities, however in general terms man is more successful in harnessing the intellect to produce light whereas woman has more success in utilizing her emotional understanding. The power of the moon/women/ heart and the power of the sun/men/brain were meant to work together in harmony to light up the world. The moon, however, thought it should be greater since the ultimate goal is to internalize that which comes from the mind into our hearts.
The Mishnah Brurah says that the moon was diminished by the sin of Chava. Chava was manipulated by the snake and told she could bring greater light to this world if she would eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. She in turn tricked Adam into eating from the Tree. A part of the punishment was the introduction of moral ambiguity in the world. Up until then, there were clear delineations between what was good and true, and what was wrong and evil. Once Adam and Chava ate from the tree, it caused all the good in the world to contain some evil, and all the evil to contain an element of good. They no longer existed independent of the other, which is why until today it is very difficult to distinguish pure truth at times. We refer to this moral ambiguity as darkness, meaning it is hard to clearly identify the good.
While indeed Adam sinned as well, he was tricked into eating the fruit. The reason I believe he was punished is for his part in the sin by changing G-ds words when instructing Chava not to touch lest she die, when in reality G-d warned eating would cause death. This led to her belief that nothing bad would happen if they ate thereby causing the chain of events that led to sin. However, he did not choose to forfeit his connection to G-d and pure good/truth by knowingly partaking of the fruit. That is why he still was given the ability to be the primary source of light. Chava, on the other hand,had made a conscious decision , deserving a greater punishment. She should have worked with Adam and synergized their talents of equal strength to light up the world. When she failed to use her talent in harmony with Adam she caused a divide between them that exists within mankind until today.
From the moment they were expelled from Gan Eden until now, man has been the primary “source of light” in the world, spreading the word of Torah and truth, while woman has been relegated to reflecting the sun, taking the Torah lessons from the men to imbue in her children, home, and the world. This is one reason why Rosh Chodesh is specifically meaningful for women. When the new moon appears after having all but disappeared, it indicates our hope of restoring our original glory in the future.
I believe that now we are living in the days preceding the Messiah. It is evident that women are gaining much more strength than they have ever had in the history of mankind. We are witness to many women who are role models with stellar qualities surfacing and empowering our people through shiurim, blogs, seminars, etc., and spreading light to all corners of our world. Women have gained respect and their advice is sought after on many issues. I believe the moon is now recapturing her glory. I see her soft light shining in a pleasing manner, appreciated and admired.
Although it seems clear to me that many elements of the Geula are now taking form, there is one overriding factor that is essential in order to fulfill our destiny. Our sages have instructed us, and history has borne witness, that our 2000 years of suffering is due to our lack of unity as a people. A crucial element in women’s restoration to their former glory is the ability to work together to rectify the divisiveness caused in the Garden of Eden.
As women continue to recapture their glory, it is important that it be done in a manner that unites our people, and makes us a true “light unto the nations.”
Therefore, this Rosh Chodesh, it is my hope and prayer that our women utilize this recaptured light to work together with all of our people to bring unity and pave the way for our complete redemption.