A TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE SUN

No doubt, any number of rabbis weighed in on last Monday’s solar eclipse. In all probability, the eclipse was written about from all angles, demonstrating once again that rabbis will go to great lengths to present the Jewish perspective of a phenomenon that many simply “can’t take their eyes off of.” For me, the lessons of last Monday’s solar eclipse are threefold, each conveying a most basic lesson about everyday life.

Don’t be fooled by size. Just because the moon was created smaller than the sun, there will be times when the sun won’t be able to hold a candle to the moon. Our rabbinic sages share with us a most thought-provoking Midrash about the moon complaining to the Creator, in that it was very much bothered by its small size. Rather than counter with “Did you ever hear a dime complain about its size while finding itself beside a nickel,” the sages have HaShem assuage the moon’s outburst of self-pity in an entirely different way. “You may wish to consider the array of stars that will adorn the sky together with you on a nightly basis,” counsels HaShem.  Whether or not the sages were aware of this approach or not, this may very well have been the first recorded lesson handed down to mankind, where mankind is taught to  look for what it has going for it, rather than what it is lacking.

Whether warranted or not, the Polish city of Chelmno, better known to us as Chelm, was the butt of all jokes – so much so that, decades ago, a book was published facetiously entitled “The Wise Men of Chelm.” Among the “important” topics discussed in that book was: which is more important, the sun or the moon? Without a moment’s hesitation, the sages of Chelm answered: “The moon, of course! The moon provides light during darkness, when light is most needed. The sun on the other hand, needlessly shines during the day, when it is light anyway”! Buffoonery aside, the important lesson to be learned is that, no different than people, the sun has its task to perform, just as the moon has its task to perform. When it comes to those two discs that shine over us in the sky above, each has an importance all its own. The world as we know it would soon cease to exist with the absence or malfunction of either one of them.

An astronomer, I’m not. By my own admission, I couldn’t find the big dipper if my life depended on it. As incredulous as this may seem, there are times when I confuse Ursa Major with Ursula Andress. Yet, as uneducated as I am when it comes to the celestial bodies, I can’t but feel that each celestial body has its own space or territory. The world is very much in sync when the moon and sun remain in their respective lebensraum. What happens, however, when the two cross paths? Scientists call it an eclipse.
Scientists can call it whatever they like. As far as I’m concerned, what took place last Monday is that the moon stole the sun’s limelight. And that ain’t kosher! As a result of the moon overshadowing the sun, strange things happen, beginning with a drop in temperature. If I remember correctly from the previous total eclipse of the sun, confusion reigned among animals, because they sensed that things were not “normal.”

Science aside, perhaps most important of all, because the moon didn’t realize what it had going for it and couldn’t leave well enough alone, because the moon did not focus on its own importance and duties, because the moon trespassed into a space where it did not belong, mankind was left in a darkness that defies being measured by any light meter that has yet to be invented.

BLACKLISTING AND WHITEWASHING

The late Senator Joseph McCarthy, infamously known for exposing Communists – either real or perceived – who had infiltrated the Federal government, especially the State Department, would have been proud. He could now justify that he wasn’t the only one who blacklisted individuals by compiling lists. Based on an article that appeared in the Dallas Morning News earlier this week, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has recently compiled a list of overseas (American) rabbis, whose authority they refuse to recognize when it comes to certifying the Jewishness of someone who wants to get married in Israel. Thanks to the efforts of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, another blacklist has been born.

Don’t get me wrong! Every rabbi has the right to accept or reject the authority of any other rabbi (hopefully for bona fide reasons). To create a list which effectively publicly besmirches a rabbi’s reputation however, is unacceptable. Had the blacklist been comprised of names of any and all Conservative and Reform Rabbis, the vast majority of American Jews would have dismissed the list as being par for the course, considering who is behind it, and would have relegated it to a matter of “boys will be boys.” But this list includes a number of Orthodox Rabbis as well, particularly those who espouse “a more open and inclusive Orthodoxy.”

I’m sure many will think that I’m overacting when I point out that the list reared its ugly head suspiciously close to the backlash of the brouhaha; created when Prime Minister Netanyahu had to cave into the pressures and demands of his Orthodox coalition and renege on an agreement that would have afforded a “mechitza-free” davening area at the Kotel or Western Wall in Jerusalem. Meetings between American Jewish leaders and Israeli officials were suddenly canceled, as American Jews reacted angrily to the chicanery and began to rethink how their donations to Federation and other Jewish umbrella organizations ought to be earmarked.

Timing is everything. One would do well to speculate whether in their haste, those responsible for publishing names failed to realize that the list would surface painfully close to the beginning of the three-week period preceding the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem – a destruction that came about because of gratuitous acrimony among Jews. On the other hand, others might argue that those responsible for the surfacing of the blacklist knew exactly what they were doing! Either way, sinat chinam – baseless hatred – reduced the Temple to a pile of rubble, ultimately resulting in two thousand years of homelessness for our people.  And this becomes more real and poignant because of the blacklist surfacing when it does.

Personally, I have no idea whether are not I am also on the blacklist. Frankly, I don’t give a damn. I am much too concerned about a different list. It’s a list (not for publication purposes) that is compiled by HaShem. In a little over two months, HaShem will be scrutinizing that list. I’m not worried that I am blacklisted; I am concerned – it is my hope and prayer that I, along with my reputation, will be whitewashed. When it comes to lists, the heavenly list is the only one that ultimately counts. It would greatly benefit others to realize this as well.