Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tonight's Eclipse

“There will be an eclipse tonight.[1]” a good friend informed me early this morning. “Is there anything in the Torah about eclipses?”

I replied with the following:

The Talmud in Sukka 29, states that an eclipse is a bad sign. Since eclipses are only a natural consequence of the orbital motion of the heavenly bodies, why does our gemara invest them with such portentous meaning? The answer lies in the axiom that the whole of creation really depends on time, for everything that happens in the material world occurs within the dimension of time. Rav Yerucham Levovitz, zt”l, wrote that people hit upon a deep truth when they feel that time is of great significance, since a great part of our avodah revolves around preparing ourselves to receive the positive spiritual influences that descend at particular times of the day, of the week, of the month, and of the year.

Our daf is saying that the eclipse represents the inverse of this—a time designated by Hashem during which He expresses his anger, ח"ו. This parallels the affinity the three weeks of Bein HaMeitzarim has for catastrophe, or, להבדיל, the unique energy of contrition and renewal that is especially accessible during Elul. Mitzvos have the power to make us transcend the normal, natural, influences of time. This is the concept of אין מזל לישראל. Conversely, one who sins during a particularly inauspicious time is compared to a person who foolishly drops sparks onto bone-dry tinder. Without thinking, he endangers himself and everyone else around him.

Many Gedolei Yisroel pointed out that World War I, which was really the prelude to World War II and the destruction of European Jewry, began on Tisha B’Av. Fewer people are aware that World War I was marked by another inauspicious sign.

Once, Rav Eliyahu Lopian, zt”l, was learning parshas Bereishis with his young grandson. When they reached the verse, “And they [the heavenly bodies] shall be for signs, and for festivals, and for days, and for years,” they read Rashi’s words, “And they shall be for signs—this teaches that when the luminaries are eclipsed, it is a bad omen for the world.” (Bereishis 1:14)

The Rav paused and said, “On the 29th of Av in 5674 (August 21, 1914), there was a full solar eclipse that made it look as dark as night outside.” On the very next day, Germany won its greatest victory on the eastern front of the entire war—the Battle of Tannenberg against Russia.

[1] [1] When I asked him to elaborate he responded: The Moon will be in total eclipse from 0301 GMT to 0351 GMT. This will be visible east of the Rocky Mountains in North America, as well as in all of Central and South America, West Africa and Western Europe. The zenith of totality is close to French Guiana. (see:http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=080218195400.xhq81wua&show_article=1)


Neil Harris said...


ihavemysecret said...

Wow! this makes so much sense.

Micha Golshevsky said...

Thank you for the chizuk!