At the beginning of the Torah portion Bereishis, the verse states:
"G-d made the two great luminaries [the sun and the moon], the greater luminary to rule the day and the smaller luminary to rule the night."
The Gemara notes that the phrase "G-d made the two great luminaries" indicates that they were of equal stature. However, the verse goes on to say "the greater luminary... and the smaller luminary."
How are these two portions of the verse to be reconciled? The Gemara answers that at the outset, G-d made the sun and moon of equal brilliance. The moon then said to G-d: "Is it possible for two kings to use the same crown?" G-d responded: "Go and diminish yourself."
Since "G-d made... the greater luminary to rule the day and the smaller luminary to rule the night," it is clear that from the beginning His intention was that one luminary be greater than the other. Why was there a need for such a "two-step process," first creating them of equal stature and then diminishing the moon as a result of its "complaint"?
Creation resulted from G-d's gazing in the Torah - "The Blueprint of the World" - and accordingly creating the universe. Thus the sun and moon were created in accordance to their source in Torah. The reason they were first equal will be understood accordingly.
The Shaloh explains that the two luminaries within Torah refer to the Written Torah (the sun) and the Oral Torah (the moon). The Oral Torah is called "the moon" because it obtains its illumination from the Written Torah, just as the moon obtains its luminosity from the sun. Thus the Talmud often employs the expression "From whence do we know? For the verse states...." In other words, the Oral Torah is based on the Written Torah.
In light of the above, we can understand why the two luminaries were first created as equals, and only afterwards was there a diminishment in the light of the moon. That the Oral Torah is dependent upon the Written Torah only applies as it relates to the Jewish people, who received the Torah - they derive the laws of the Oral Torah from their source in the Written Torah.
However, from G-d's perspective as the Giver of the Torah, the Written Torah and the Oral Torah are equally great. Thus the Rambam states: "All the mitzvos were given [from Above] with their commentaries" .... He would tell him [Moshe] the commandment [the Written Torah], and then G-d would relate to him its meaning and all its aspects [the Oral Torah]."
In a deeper sense, the Written Torah and Oral Torah are referred to as sun and moon not only because the latter receives its illumination from the former, but also because the Written Torah emphasizes the Giver of the Torah - the "sun" and benefactor, while the Oral Torah stresses the recipient - the "moon" and receiver.
Thus the Written Torah was transmitted with an exact number of letters, stressing that it is G-d's Torah and loftier than man's comprehension, while the Oral Torah is a reflection of man's comprehension. This is why when one does not comprehend what he is studying in the Oral Torah, it does not constitute Torah study at all.
Just as this is so with regard to the "sun" and "moon" of Torah, so too with regard to the physical sun and moon. The difference between them is only as they find themselves within the world; as they exist before G-d, they are of equal stature, for the moon is just as much G-d's creation as the sun. It is only that for them to serve their purpose within the world, the moon receives its illumination from the sun.
This is similar to a rich person and a pauper - another example of benefactor (sun) and recipient (moon). G-d provides the pauper's sustenance through the intermediary of the well-to-do person. For inasmuch as G-d desires the mitzvah of tzedakah, He created the world in such a manner that there would be givers and recipients, the wealthy and the poor.
Thus, the poor person does not actually receive from the wealthy individual, but from G-d (for everything which the rich person owns also belongs to G-d). It is only with regard to the physical channel that the poor receive their sustenance via the rich.
So too, the moon told G-d that in order for it to act its part in the world - the part of a recipient - it must receive its light via the sun.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXX, pp. 8-14.
- (Back to text) Bereishis 1:16.
- (Back to text) Chulin 60b.
- (Back to text) See Zohar, Vol. II, p. 161a-b.
- (Back to text) Beginning of Bereishis Rabbah.
- (Back to text) Introduction, 16a; Tractate Shavuos 191a.
- (Back to text) See Likkutei Torah, Shir HaShirim, p. 11d.
- (Back to text) Introduction to Sefer HaYad.
- (Back to text) Hilchos Talmud Torah L'Admur HaZakein end of ch. 2, and sources cited there.
- (Back to text) Sefer HaMaamarim 5627, p. 399ff.; Sefer HaMaamarim Kuntreisim, Vol. I, p. 119a ff.
With regard to Creation the Mishnah states:
"The world was created by means of 10 [Divine] utterances. What does this teach us, for indeed, it could have been created with one utterance? But it was to repay the wicked who destroy the world which was created by 10 utterances, and to bestow ample reward upon the righteous who sustain the world which was created by 10 utterances."
Our Sages ask: G-d is the essence of goodness, and "the nature of he that is good is to act in a kindly manner." How then can we say that G-d created the world with 10 utterances so as to "repay the wicked who destroy the world which was created by 10 utterances"?
This will be understood in light of the remark of the commentators that the Mishnah uses the term "to repay" rather than "to punish." This is because the intent of the Mishnah is not to imply that G-d seeks revenge; rather He desires to "lengthen His anger, and take back that which is His - in a manner of payment."
This means that there is no intent here to punish the sinner for the purpose of Divine retribution. Rather the punishment is such that it enables the sinner to "repay" the debt he owes for his evil actions.
The explanation is as follows. Every Jewish soul descends to this world with a Divine mission to transform it into a dwelling fit for G-d. This is accomplished through the performance of mitzvos. However, he who sins and strays from the path of righteousness becomes "indebted" to G-d and must "repay" Him.
This repayment is accomplished through teshuvah, by means of which an individual rectifies all the deficiencies that he brought about through his sins. The act of teshuvah thus serves to "repay" a sinner's debt.
This then is the meaning of the phrase "to repay the wicked." G-d demands that the wicked repay the debt they owe Him by doing teshuvah. Parenthetically, this is the general intent of all punishment: the purpose is not punishment per se, but intended to lead sinners to teshuvah.
This provides us with a deeper understanding of the next part of the statement "(to repay the wicked) who destroy the world which was created by 10 utterances:" Even the fact that the wicked "destroy the world which was created by 10 utterances" has a positive side.
This is in consonance with the aspect of the elevation achieved through teshuvah, by means of which an individual becomes "a new entity" and builds a "new world," for as a result of teshuvah his spiritual service is now performed with new vigor.
"Repaying the wicked who destroy the world which was created by 10 utterances" thus means that through teshuvah, those who were wicked destroy and subsume the limitations of the world, limitations that resulted from its being created via 10 utterances rather than with one. For teshuvah reveals G-d's transcendent ability within the world - an ability that goes beyond the natural limitations implied by the 10 utterances.
The entire order of the Mishnah can now be understood: It begins by stating: "The world was created by means of 10 [Divine] utterances. What does this come to teach us, for indeed, it could have been created with one utterance?"
The Mishnah here explains the two possible manners of creation: a) the limited manner, through 10 utterances; b) the unlimited manner, in which it could have been created with only one utterance.
In line with this, the Mishnah continues to explain two kinds of spiritual service: a) "to repay the wicked who destroy the world which was created by 10 utterances," i.e., the superior service of teshuvah that is possible because the world could have been created with one utterance; and b) "to bestow ample reward upon the righteous who sustain the world which was created by 10 utterances," i.e., the service of the righteous, by means of which the world is strengthened, as it was indeed created with 10 utterances.
Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XXX, pp. 1-7.
- (Back to text) Avos 5:1.
- (Back to text) Nachlas Avos quoted in Midrash Shmuel.
- (Back to text) Maamarei Admur HaZakein - Eshaleich Liozna p. 186; Ateres Rosh, Shaar Rosh HaShanah ch. 8; Maamar Atah Echad of the Mitteler Rebbe in the name of the Eitz Chayim; Eimek HaMelech Shaar Shashuei HaMelech, beginning of ch. 1; Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah ch. 4. (p. 79a), et al.
- (Back to text) Midrash Shmuel on this Mishnah.
- (Back to text) Tanchuma, Naso 16; Tanya beginning of ch. 36.
- (Back to text) See Rambam beginning of Hilchos Taanis, and beginning of Hilchos Tumas Tzoraas.
- (Back to text) See Rambam Hilchos Teshuvah 2:4.