The Consolation of the Stars

Mar 28th, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in 613 Concepts, Portion of the Week
“His mother had often taken him out after dark and shown him the sky. On such occasions her weary face would break into a smile. The stars provided some consolation for the hard life she led. She normally lived with her face pointed down to the ground, which embraced her rice plants as if it were waiting for her to join them there one of these days. When she gazed up at the stars, just for a brief while, she didn’t need to look at the brown earth beneath her.” (“The Man From Beijing” by Henning Mankell, p.89)

I imagine that the slaves in Egypt had a similar experience of consolation when they looked up at the stars after a day of laboring for Pharaoh on the brown earth of Egypt. The night sky was a way of looking up, not down. It was an escape from the earth that was waiting for their bodies.

And then came the commandment, the first to the people as a nation, the Mitzvah of Kiddush HaChodesh, the Sanctification of the New Moon. Looking up at the sky would no longer be an escape, but a call. It would no longer be a consolation, but a challenge. It was no longer a far away distant place where there is no suffering, but an immediate presence in their lives.

God made them the masters of the heavens, and they began to taste the possibilities of freedom.

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