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Friday, October 13

The Weekly Shtikle - Bereishis

Today, 28 Tishrei, is the 22nd yahrtzeit of my dear friend, Daniel Scarowsky, z"l.

This week's shtikle is dedicated leiluy nishmaso, Daniel Moshe Eliyahu ben Yitzchak.


The shtikle is dedicated as a zechus for all of our brethren in Eretz Yisrael who are enduring the current ordeal, specifically those who are on the front lines defending our nation, including many close family members.


The Torah (1:16) refers to the sun and the moon as shnei hame'oros hagedolim, the two large luminaries but concludes by referring to the sun as the maor hagadol and the moon as the maor hakaton. On this pasuk there is the well-known Rashi, quoting the Midrash, that the moon and the sun were created equal but the moon complained that "two kings cannot share one crown." Therefore, it was reduced to a smaller luminary. However, this is certainly an allegorical understanding of the pasuk. What, then, is the simple understanding?

In In the Beginning: Biblical Creation and Science, a fascinating book reconciling the Biblical account of creation with modern science, Professor Nathan Aviezer offers an eye-opening interpretation. An astronomical body is measured both by its true size and by its apparent size or angular diameter. The apparent size specifies how large it appears to an observer on Earth. This figure is the ratio of the true size of the object to its distance from the Earth. This figure is expressed as the angle that the object subtends from the position of an observer on Earth. That means, if you were pointing to the bottom of the object, the apparent size is the number of degrees you must rotate your arm to be pointing at the top of the object. The sun is 400 times bigger than the moon. It is also exactly 400 times further away from Earth. As a result, the apparent size for the sun and moon are identical at 0.53 degrees! Even a layman will observe this as the moon fits exactly in front of the sun in a total solar eclipse, (such as the one this coming April.) Now we can understand the pasuk as follows: The first part of the pasuk is referring to the point of view of an Earth observer. From our point of view, the sun and moon are the biggest heavenly bodies and in fact, appear identical in size. The second part of the pasuk refers to the true size of the sun and moon.

Some friends of mine have offered alternative ways to understand the second part of the pasuk. While the first part may refer to the size, the second refers to the degree of illumination as the sun provides far more light than the moon. (This is notwithstanding the assertion of the wise men of Chelm that the moon is greater because it provides light in the darkness when we need it while the sun only provides light during the day.) Additionally, the moon is in fact the same size only when it is full. For most of the month, as it waxes and wanes, even in its size it is inferior to the sun. (Credit: Dr. Ari Brodsky)

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Do you Sea what I Sea

Dikdukian: And the Days Was
AstroTorah: Emunah in Time and Space

AstroTorah: The Two Luminaries


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