Bo – The Greatness of the (Little) Moon

Posted on January 25, 2023

By Rabbi Alex Freedman.


The moon gets a bad rap in our society. Nobody says “the moon, sun, and stars” because the sun is always named first. We also know that moonlight is merely the light reflected from the sun, not generated on its own. The moon is like the little sibling, able to tag along but not do everything like the big kids.

All of which makes it interesting that the moon is the key to the Jewish calendar, not the sun (though the sun plays a role too). It’s our Parsha this week, Bo, that gives us the Mitzvah of Rosh Hodesh, when G-d told Moses and Aaron in Egypt: “This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you” (Ex. 12:1, 2). Even before they left Egypt, G-d gives them the Jewish calendar to free them psychologically. Thus the process of freedom begins before they are physically liberated.

Here’s what the Etz Hayim Humash adds: Why does Israel count by the moon, with each month starting when the new moon emerges? Because the moon, unlike the sun, waxes and wanes, nearly disappears and then grows bright again. So the Jewish people go through cycles of prosperity and suffering, knowing that even in darkness there are brighter days ahead (Sefat Emet).”

Nothing is too small to make a contribution, not the moon and not the Jewish people.