Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Moon and the war - part two

As I was reading the article mentioned in the previous post about the moon, I wondered what the significance is to the phenomenon that the tides and waves are caused by the moon's gravity. What could the message behind this be?

I was נתעורר to some interesting thoughts when I saw a piece from the Ben Ish Chai.

He is explaining how the concept of מים - water - has to do with the concept of מודים - admitting. He points out that if you spell out the letters of מים you get the following: מ"ם יו"ד מ"ם. When you take the middle letters, you find the word מודים. We need, of course, to understand what this signifies.

I started thinking about something we say at קידוש לבנה. We say כשם שאני רוקד כנגדך ואיני יכול לנגוע בך כך לא יוכלו כל אויבי לנגוע בי לרעה - just as I am dancing in front of you and I can not touch you (the Moon), so should my enemies be unable to touch me for evil. As we say this, we raise our feet in a little dance, similar to the motion of kedusha.

This also needs explanation. What kind of tefillah is this? Just like I can't touch the moon, my enemies should not be able to touch me? This seems like such a strange thing to say. What's the פשט?

Coming back to the concept of the Moon, it has no light of its own - all its light is from the Sun. It represents Klal Yisrael who reflect the light of Hashem, but it also represents the idea that one can only accomplish when we recognize that we have no power of our own. וזכרת את ה' אלוקיך כי הוא הנותן לך כח לעשות חיל - you should remember Hashem your God, for He is the one who gives you power to be mighty. When we forget where our success stems from, we lose our might. When we realize that we are only reflecting Hashem's light, it indeed shines brightly through us. When we think we produce our own light, Hashem allows us to try to create our own, and we are left with nothing.

When we make that motion, up and down, reaching for the Moon and recognizing that it is beyond our grasp, we inject humility into ourselves. We have learned the lesson of the Moon that only reflects the Sun's light and does not create its own. This humility is what gives us the power against our enemies - the power that is Hashem's - ה' ילחם לכם ואתם תחרישון - Hashem will fight for you and you will be quiet! This, I believe, is what we are saying - Just as I am dancing and can not reach you (humility!), so should my enemies be unable to touch me for evil (with Hashem's help).

It struck me that this motion that we do as we reach for the Moon and recognize our inability, is the same motion that waves do. They go up and down, up and down, constantly pulled by the gravity of the moon, constantly reaching up and coming back toward Earth. The motion of the water itself hints to that power of הודאה - of admitting. The waters are pulled to admit by the ultimate representation of admittal - the Moon. This is why the word מים contains the word מודים, because the motion of the worlds waters teaches us the lesson of הודאה.

This could also be why the Torah, which is compared to water, can only be acquired with humility. The Gemara in Nedarim says ממדבר מתנה וממתנה נחליאל - כיון שעושה אדם עצמו כמדבר שהוא הפקר לכל תורה נתנה לו במתנה - when a person makes himself like a wilderness - ownerless to all - the Torah is given to him as a present. The Torah can only be acquired by one who has made himself empty of ego, because the Torah is the ultimate source of Hashem's light, which can only shine through one who has no light of his own.

I heard the following story from a reliable source close to the Gadol about whom this story was told.

It was Friday, the seventh day of the Gaza war, and the ground troops were getting ready to invade Gaza that Friday night. The shamash of the Gadol received a phone call from one of the higher ups in the Israeli army, who asked to receive a bracha for the impending military operation. When the shamash brought this request to the Gadol, he responded that he could not give a bracha for the operation if it would begin that night, as it would involve too much desecration of Shabbos. Not only that, but the operation would not see any סימן ברכה if it began on Shabbos.

The Shamash called back the general and relayed the words of the Gadol. The response was that the army had strong reason to believe that Hamas would begin attacking over Shabbos, and they wanted to begin with a surprise attack. The shamash reiterated the Gadol's words that if they would begin the operation on Shabbos, they would see no סימן ברכה, and added the Gadol's reassurance that nothing would happen over Shabbos.

Indeed, nothing happened over Shabbos, and on Motsaei Shabbos, the shamash received a call from the same general. He said that the army had decided to take the Gadol's advice into account, and had waited until after Shabbos to begin. The Gadol gladly granted the requested bracha, and the operation then began.

The power of this story is that there was a surge of humility that would be with the entire IDF throughout its fight against this enemy whose entire existence is pride. Hashem has shown tremendous miracles at every stage, and continues to do so. Let us hope that the humility will continue, and Hashem will surely continue to shine His light through us, until it bursts forth to the entire world, may it be speedily in our days.

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