24 Jan BO: ARE YOU A SUN OR A MOON?
Two roads diverged in the long voyage of
our people. There were “Solar Jews” and
There were always the people whose
primary focus has been on holding on
tenaciously to the past, with little or no
change. Just because Voltaire gave us
Enlightenment, Nietzsche taught us about
the Will for Power, Tocqueville explained
to us democracy, Freud discovered the
subconscious, and America is changing by
the day, this group argues, our core
values—what makes us human and
Jewish—still do not undergo change.
Learn from the sun, they say. It has been
doing the same thing for millennia and is
still cast its light and warmth effectively.
In contrast, the lunar Jews focus on the
constant changes in history: The fluctuating
trends, the cultural developments, the
novel inventions, the technological
revolutions, and the newly discovered
wisdom. These Jews allow their ears to
absorb the sounds of progression and the
alterations in the climate. They aspire to
define a Judaism—or a philosophy of
life—that would be relevant to the
contemporary conversation of humanity in
its journey toward progress. “Learn from
the moon,” they exclaim. Every day it is
different. It waxes, it wanes; it even
disappears once in a while. It forever
assumes diverse shapes.
Often, they mocked their elders who were
unchangeable. Their lunar anthem was
Rooted in the tombs of yesterday
Growing, thriving toward the sky.
Not satisfied with answers carved in clay
Give us new life or we will die.
In some ways, it was this perspective that
gave birth to the contemporary Jewish
world. As the winds of modernity swept
Europe, as Enlightenment and
Emancipation cast their glow on a
downtrodden nation, millions of Jews felt
that clinging to the lifestyle and traditions
of their ancestors would impede their
bright journey to a new world order. In the
process, they bid farewell to the old to
embrace the new; they said goodbye to the
yore to embrace the “your.”
Then came the Holocaust and changed
everything. A shattered people observed in
unfathomable horror how the most
enlightened European nation with the most
PhDs, the crown jewel of the sciences and
arts, was capable of sending one-and-a-
half million children into gas chambers,
with no qualms. As our nation struggled to
regain its bearings and rebuild, confusion
The solar Jews focused on the fact that if
you are not anchored in absolute values,
traditions, and faith, you may forfeit
continuity. In your passion to remain
relevant today, you may forfeit the wisdom
of yesteryear. In your ambition to grow
tall, you can’t detach from the roots that
keep you alive.
“By the time a man realizes that maybe his
father was right, he usually has a son who
thinks he’s wrong,” Charles Wadsworth
The lunar Jews accuse solar Jews of
monotony and dogma, stifling the new
energy of today. In their hope to continue
the chain of history by adding their
identically matching link, they fail to leave
room for creativity and self-expression.
Two Approaches to Business
Often, the conflict between the lunar and
solar personalities emerges in a company, a
business, or an organization.
The CEO, David, is adventurous, creative,
courageous, and fearless of risks. He feels
that the company has to embrace a new
model to bring it over the top, though it has
not done things this way since its inception.
Yet the senior Vice President, Henry,
adheres to a different code: Conservative
approaches and investments, calculated
growth strategies, continuing the models of
yesterday which proved successful.
At a board meeting trying to reconcile
between the two, strong words are hurled:
The VP accuses the CEO, thirty years
younger than him, of being volatile and
impetuous. “This young know-it-all
arrogant leader will take a successful
company, earning its fixed annual revenue,
and run it into the ground because of his
irresponsible and youthful decisions.” The
CEO does not remain silent. “Henry is an
old man. He moves with the speed of a
turtle. His consistency and regularity have
led us to paralysis, stagnation, and
deadness. With him at the helm, we will
Often the dichotomy flares up in a
She is spontaneous, fun-loving,
bursting with ever-changing
moods and emotions. Occasionally,
her luminous personality shines
like the full moon; equally
frequent, however, are periods of
sadness and inner struggle. She
waxes and wanes. And sometimes
she wants to disappear from the
world for two days, just like the
He is solid, dependable, consistent, as
regular as tomorrow’s sunrise. When he
has a flight, he packs two days before and
shows up at the airport 3 and-a-half hours
before his flight. He has been leaving the
house at the same minute—8:19 AM—for
the past 36 years to catch the 8:30 train. At
work, he’s efficient, productive, and a
stalwart upholder of company policy. He
has not been late to an appointment since
the Cuban Missile Crisis. Even the Landing
on the Moon did not excite him enough to
stay up later than usual. After all, he is a
sun… He goes to bed, with one book on his
night table, because he never picks up a
second book before he finished reading the
first. That, in his mind, is frivolous and
irresponsible… (His wife, on the other
hand, goes to bed with six books, so that
when she gets bored of the first book—
usually after three pages—she can pick up
the second book.)
Or sometimes (maybe more often) it is the
other way around. She is made of steel.
She is solid, reliable, dependable. He is
moody and unstable. He may be an “artist,”
but he’s out for lunch. And lunch never
ends with him. Either way, as can be
expected, theirs is not an easy marriage.
Each of us tends to deal with this conflict
differently. But the common denominator
for most is that we try to overemphasize
one of the two approaches so that we can
form some sense of identity. Sometimes as
a society we give one approach exclusive
power when the other has dominated our
attention for a long time. It becomes a
pendulum swing from one extreme to
another: Embracing art and creativity until
we’ve totally lost all sense of moral truth,
and then giving total control to discipline
and dogma until there is no distinguishable
personality left in us.
Judaism, in its profound understanding of
human nature and the process of history,
challenges us to embark on the road less
There are two types of calendars used by
most civilizations today: the Western
calendar and the Muslim calendar. The
Western calendar follows the solar cycle,
while the Muslim calendar follows the
lunar cycle. The primary features of both
calendars are the month and the year. Yet
their duration can be calculated through
either the sun or the moon.
Let us go on a little journey through these
The solar orbit (the orbit of the sun around
the earth, or of the earth around the sun) is
completed every 365 days. That makes for
a year. If you divide these 365 days into 12
sections, you get approximately 30 days in
each. This makes up the months.
This is how the Western calendar works.
The months are not defined by the
completion of any particular orbit; they are
an artificial creation, a product of the mind
dividing the solar orbit into 12 sections.
The lunar orbit (the apparent orbit of the
moon around the earth, or the earth around
the moon) is completed every 29 1/2 days,
12 times as fast as the sun. That makes for
a month. Now, when you multiply the
lunar month—29 or 30 days—12 times,
you have a year.
Such a year, comprised of 12 lunar months,
adds up to 354 days, 11 days shorter than a
solar year of 365 days. When a new lunar
year begins (the beginning of the 13th
month), the solar year has not yet finished
its previous year and orbit.
This is how the Muslim calendar works. As
with the months in the Western calendar,
the years in the Muslim calendar are not
defined by an objective astronomical
reality but are a creation of the human
mind multiplying the moon’s orbit 12
This is why Ramadan—the ninth month of
the Islamic calendar, which is the Islamic
This article was taken with permission from www.TheYeshiva.net. The author of the article is one of the most sought after speakers in the Jewish world today.
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BO: ARE YOU A SUN OR A MOON?
By: Rabbi Y.Y.
month of fasting, in
Muslims refrain from
eating, drinking, and
intimate relations for
the entire month
from dawn until
sunset—can fall out either in winter or
summer, or any other season. Sometimes
Ramadan is in hot August, and sometimes
in cold February (in 2022 it will begin on
April 2 through May 2). Why? Because the
Muslim calendar, unlike the Western
calendar, has nothing to do with the sun
and its seasons. It completely revolves
around the moon.
As long as you don’t mix the two calendars,
you’re fine. But this is where the Jews
came in and generated confusion. The
Jewish calendar is unique in that it
integrates these two very different cycles
of time—the solar and the lunar—into a
The very first mitzvah given to the Jewish
people—even before their Exodus from
Egypt—specified the formula by which to
set the cycles of Jewish time, and it gave
birth to the most complex calendar ever
The Torah specifies that Jewish months
need to be established by the lunar orbit.
Simple enough. Yet the Torah also instructs
the Jewish people to celebrate their
holidays (observed on certain days of the
lunar month) during specific solar seasons.
For example, the holiday of Passover,
beginning on the 15th day of the lunar
month of Nissan, must also be the spring
season (a product of the solar cycle).
Now, if the lunar and solar year had
enjoyed an identical number of days, this
system would work perfectly: The lunar
and solar months would travel together
side by side. But since the lunar year is 354
days, and the solar year is 365 days, each
passing year creates a discrepancy of 11
days between the two cycles. In the course
of 10 years, the lunar year falls behind the
solar year some 110 days. The result of this
would be that Passover, celebrated in the
lunar month of Nissan, would eventually
end up in the winter.
To confront this problem, the Jewish
calendar introduced the “leap year.” Every
few years, a 13th month consisting of 30
days is added to the lunar year. This way
the “lunar year” catches up to the “solar
year.” This is done approximately every
three years when the discrepancy between
the lunar and solar year reaches 33 days.
The added month synchronizes them, more
Now, this year in the Jewish calendar,
5782, is one of those leap years. And the
Hebrew month in which we presently find
ourselves, Adar 1, is exactly such a type of
month—an additional 13th month added to
our lunar year. The additional month is
always added to the month of Adar,
ensuring that the following month, Nissan,
the month of Passover, is in spring, since
the lunar year has now “caught” up to the
So in summation, the Jewish people
calculate their time according to both the
moon and the sun. Our months are the
moons; our years are the suns. To ensure
that our lunar months keep pace with the
solar year, we are constantly attempting
to have the moon overcome its 11-day
void and catch up to the sun’s year.
Why the Headache?
But why the need for such headaches?
If the Torah wants us to synchronize
our months and years with the solar
seasons, let it establish a solar calendar
to begin with! Why the need to follow a
lunar system and then try to make up
for its flaws, shortcomings, and
The answer to this enigma is that in
Judaism we measure and calculate our
days the same way in which we
measure and calculate our inner lives.
We define time in the same way that we
define our mission in life. And our
mission in life is not to become either
lunar or solar, but to integrate them.
Sure, the synthesis of two celestial
beings which possess differing patterns
is never easy; it always requires tuning,
fine-tuning, checks and balances,
adjustments, vigilance, humility, and
the readiness to challenge ourselves.
But any other way would be neglecting
a vital component of our design and of
our objective in life.
To run from your spouse because they
are so different is short-sided. Sure, to
synchronize two personalities is not
always a smooth journey, especially
when one is a sun and the other—a moon.
Yet it is in this attempt to bring together
two orbits in which we can fully realize our
inner potential and become the people we
were meant to become.
Truth can never be captured via the moon
or the sun on their own. We ought to utilize
our innovative ability to its fullest, and yet,
for our creativity to be productive and life-
affirming, we must have a structure in
which to operate. If I forfeit that structure
in the name of liberty and self-expression,
it would be akin to water escaping the
“boundaries” of the pot in order to come
into direct contact with the fire beneath the
pot. The results? No fire left.
To lose touch with time-tested values of
the past in the name of creativity is akin to
playing a football game on a massive roof
of a tall building, lacking a firm fence.
Instead of enjoying a thrilling game, we
become too timid to play, because we
know how dangerous it is, or conversely,
we become reckless. The best thing we can
do is to construct a fence, and then we can
enjoy an awesome game.
Let’s take the marital structure. Some may
argue for completer lunar passion and
romance, without the limitations imposed
by the “solar” stable commitment to one
person with no red lines crossed. The
marriage-without boundaries may sound
exciting, but the results are well known: It
undermines rather than enhances the love
and trust between a husband and wife, and
the person often ends up with nothing.
We love the moon. We must be fresh,
creative, passionate, and explore and
actualize all of our individual resources.
We ought to celebrate the new and the
creative. But the leap year teaches us, that
our inner moon—our inner lunacy—must,
once every few years, be synchronized
with our inner sun. We need to anchor our
spiritedness in time-tested values to define
what is right and what is wrong. Our
creativity blossoms best on the soil of
commitment and tradition. The structures
of morality and the laws of the Torah are
similar to the laws of biology. If in my
attempt for creativity I ignore the intricate
“laws” that govern my organism, I will end
up damaging myself.
You can’t ignore the rhythm of the soul.
Only in the struggle to synthesize the sun
and the moon, can the full capacity and
majesty of the human being be expressed.