Suns, Moons and Stars

The past few weeks have seen people take to the streets across the world to protest injustice. From Trafalgar Square to Hong Kong and in almost every city in the United States, people are identifying with a common issue and verbalizing their concerns. The cause may be different but the pain is the same, society is feeling the pangs of inequality and oppression and when basic freedoms are removed and injustice is perceived, people stand up and protest. Public demonstrations are seen as a way for people to express their frustration with the establishment and their leaders and have their voices heard. 

In this weeks’ parsha, the Jewish people stand up and protest as well. This was not the first time the Jewish people voiced their dissatisfaction with the existing state of affairs and it would certainly not be last. In their minds they were stranded in a desert with no water, and with their basic needs not met their first instinct was to protest. The Jewish people were undoubtedly wrong for not placing their trust in God who they had witnessed with their own eyes punish their Egyptian oppressors, redeem them from abject slavery and present them with hope of a future in a promised land. 

What is equally telling is not only the protest of the people but the response of their leader. Moshe reacts sharply and, ultimately, hits the rock instead of speaking to it resulting in him being told he would no longer lead the Jewish people into the land of Israel. He would lead them all the way up to its border and see the Promised Land but not enter it. Instead, it would be Yehoshua who would take over the leadership of the Jewish people, guide them into Israel and build a civilisation. Moshe was inarguably the greatest prophet, lawgiver and leader in our history. He stood up to Pharaoh, led the nation out of Egypt, received the Torah and weathered countless storms throughout the forty years spent in the desert before arriving in Israel. But he would not lead them on into the next chapter of their story.

The Talmud in Bava Basra 75a compares Moshe to the sun and Yehoshua to the moon. This seems to imply that Yehoshua could only mirror the tremendous power that emanated from Moshe, just as the moon only reflects the light of the sun. Moshe’s leadership was so great that the leaders who followed were mere shadows in comparison. However, there’s also something deeper in this analogy that speaks directly to the transition the Jewish people were going through.

There is another marked difference between the sun and the moon. When the sun shines, it’s such a dominant force that any other light simply cannot be seen. The stars disappear, a candle is useless and all other light pales into insignificance next to it. But when the moon shines, the stars shine brightly as well. In fact, the brighter the glow of the moon the more clearly the stars can be seen. It’s not that the stars don’t shine when the sun shines, it’s that their sparkle is drowned out by the overpowering light of the sun.

Clearly, different leaders are needed for different circumstances. It took a powerful leader to stand up to the Egyptians, split the sea and overcome crises the world over. It had to be Moshe Rabbenu, Moses the Teacher, who had the authority and command to give over the Torah to the Jewish people and make sure it would remain what binds the Jewish people and ensures their future as the Chosen People. Only Moshe could teach this fledgling nation with a slave mentality how to be a light unto the nations. But it was Yehoshua who would be the right person to enter the land, conquer it and raise the next generation.

Moshe was the quintessential Jewish leader because the people needed a sun when they left Egypt and traversed the desert. A most powerful light that would illuminate the path for them and show them where to go and how to be great. Now, poised to enter the land of Israel and actualize their tremendous potential they needed a moon. A leader who would reflect the tremendous power of Moshe but empower them at the same time and allow their individual stars to shine.

At this critical stage of their existence, when the Jews are about to enter the Land of Israel and build the Beis Hamikdash, it was leadership through empowerment that would bring out the best in them. It was time to let the stars shine as well.

As the world watches the streets fill with protestors who are pained by injustice and want their voices heard, leaders must understand that while a strong leader is critical for the success of a nation, the people must be heard as well and what they have to say cannot be overshadowed. What sets leaders apart are those who understand that the sparkle of the stars can be more important than the blinding light of the sun.

 

- July 2nd 2020

About the Author

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Rabbi Dovid Lichtig Rabbi Dovid Lichtig holds a B.A. in Business Management from Wayne State University and an MBA in Business Administration from Missouri State University. He has studied in various top Talmudic institutions across the world creating personal relationships with Torah luminaries such as R' Shmuel Birnbaum OB'M and R' Dovid Soloveitchik and has received rabbinic ordination in both the United States and Israel. He spent a decade in Detroit, Michigan as the NCSY Associate Regional Director where he was responsible for staff management, programme development and providing strategic vision to the Central East region of NCSY.  In 2019, Dovid and his family returned to the UK to take the position of  Managing Director of Aish UK. 

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