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Parshas Shoftim

Why The Sun Does Not See The Moon

When you shall come near to a city to make war against it, then you shall summon it with words of peace. (DEVARIM 20:10)

Rabbi Shraga Feivel Frank (1843-1886) was a wealthy person who lived in Alscot-Kovna, Lithuania. One day his wife returned home to find to her astonishment that the cabinet which held their money was broken open, and her husband, Rabbi Shraga, was at home.

He explained, “A friend of mine was here and asked for a loan. I searched for the key of the cabinet to take out the money and could not find it. I then understood that you had the key with you, or that you had put it somewhere.

“I thought, ‘If I will tell this person to come back in another two hours when you will be home, he will think that I am making an excuse. He will feel hurt and will not come back to get the loan. I could also not tell him to wait for your arrival, since I did not know when you would return. I could also not ask him to sit there and wait, since he would not have felt comfortable. Hence I came to the decision that I had to do something. I went out to the yard and found an ice pick, and I broke open the cabinet. It was definitely worth the effort so that a Jew would not have to wait.” (OLAM CHESED YIBANEH, p. 293)

Rabbi Shraga was careful not to cause any unpleasant feelings to others. This should also be our goal concerning our spouses in marriage.

“When you shall come near to a city (then you shall summon it with words of peace,)” is a halachah (a law, and not merely a suggestion). There are words that our Sages have said regarding creating peace. Here also is what we have learned from our Sages: A Kohen reads in the Torah first, a Levite second, and a Yisrael is third. Do you see how great is the power of peace?

Rabbi Yochanan said, “The sun has never seen the crescent of the moon. Why? Because of keeping peace.” (So the moon will not feel uncomfortable when the sun will see that it is not complete.)

Rabbi Levi said, “None of the stars that are moving in the heavens can see the stars in front of them, but they can only see the ones behind them. This is like a man going down a ladder backwards (with his face forward so he sees only those behind him on the ladder) so that each star will say, ‘I am the first.’ That is as is written, ‘He makes peace among the heavenly bodies.’”

Bar Kappara said, “If the heavenly bodies, that do not have the feelings of jealously, hatred, or competition, still need peace, how much more so do those on earth need peace, as they are full of hatred, competition, and jealousy.” (MIDRASH RABBAH SHOFTIM 5:12)

What does this section of the Torah have to do with the matter of peace? Why did our Sages emphasize, “Do you see how great is the power of peace?” Why does the moon feel uncomfortable when the sun sees its crescent? The moon has no feeling of embarrassment and will not suffer when seen by the sun. A similar question applies to the stars in heaven, which also have no feelings.

Since the Torah is read in public, and everyone wants to have an honorable portion in it, there is bound to be an argument in the synagogue if some order is not instituted. Our Sages were very careful that this discord should not take place. Therefore they installed a system that would establish a prearranged order of preference for the more desired portions (the first two). By saying that a Kohen gets the first portion, no argument can arise, since the order does not depend on a question of personal honor, but rather this privilege depends on the position of one’s ancestors, a fact which leaves no room for dispute.

That is why our Sages emphasize, “Do you see how great is the power of peace?” They are saying that is reality the honor of reading the first portion should have been given to a talmid chacham, since he is the one most fitting to be honored by the reading of the Torah. But since that system would have caused dispute, they disregarded the honor of talmidei chachamim, and established the other system. This truly shows the importance of peace.

The moon feels uncomfortable when the sun sees its crescent, since the sun has no crescent and is always whole. Obviously the moon has no feelings, since it is not alive. Nevertheless, the world was created in such a manner that the sun does not meet the moon in order to teach us a lesson. G-d could have easily created the world in such a manner that both the sun and the moon could have appeared simultaneously. But then we would not have this lesson of the importance of having sensitivity to that which may embarrass someone.

The lesson here is that we are not allowed to make other people feel uncomfortable. Even when it is not done on purpose, and even if nothing has been said or done by us to embarrass them, if people might feel uncomfortable about something it is our duty to do everything possible to avoid such a situation. The sun is not responsible for the moon’s crescent, and the sun does not say anything unpleasant to the moon. Nevertheless, the sun never appears together with the moon, so that the moon will never feel uncomfortable about its deficiency.

Never Make Your Spouse Feel Uncomfortable

A practical application of this might be if our spouse would spill some food on the table or on our clothes, or if something fell and broke. The best reaction is to pretend that we did not see anything at all, just as the sun avoids seeing the moon. That way we are sure to prevent any uncomfortable feelings.

“None of the stars that are moving in the heavens can see the stars in front of them, but they can only see the ones behind them. This is like a man going down a ladder backwards, so that each star will say, ‘I am the first.’” G-d wants every star in heaven to have the best self-image possible. The feeling of being ‘first’ is what will make a star happy. But not every star can be first, because some must be second and third. Hence, G-d lets each star only see the stars that are behind it, and none of the stars in front of it, so that the star will get the impression that it is the first.

Our task in marriage is to let our spouses think that they are the most beautiful, talented, inspiring individuals in the world. We must carefully find the right words to show them that we really believe in them. It makes no difference that there are more beautiful or talented people in the world. Just as G-d takes care that each star will have that pleasant feeling to think that it is the ‘first,’ even though it is not true, so must we give that feeling to our spouses regardless of whether it is true or not.

The principle here is that true peace at home comes when there is complete mutual admiration between spouses. The moment that destructive criticism enters into the relationship, poison has entered the marriage. Thus everyone must think positively of his or her spouse and try to look only at their good points while completely disregarding their failures. Do not try to improve your spouse. Leave that to others. Your job is only to love, admire, and support at all times. If there is really something which your spouse does which is very annoying to you, this must be explained very tactfully, so that there will be no cause for bringing about bad feelings.

Every time we see the sun, moon and stars, we have reminders of the lessons that G-d taught us in their creation. These luminaries should be used to remind us how to improve our marriage so that it can become one of true bliss.

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