Shabbat Chanukah - Parshat Miketz 5759 "But Only to Behold Them"
I've always been impressed and moved by events in the heavens. This is not to say that I'm at all a "maven" in Astronomy. I used to be able to identify some of the Constellations, but even that I've mostly forgotten. What I'm referring to are unusual events in the heavens, such as the comet Hale-Bopp, which graced our skies for an extended period several months ago.
I'm going to describe a series of events which took place more than a month ago. At that time, and apparently, again, on Chanukah itself, our planet was visited and is again being visited by a major meteor shower. But, before I was aware of that, I had my first personal encounter with a meteor. Fear not! No kidnapping-by-alien stories here; just some impressive observations.
One evening, as I left my chavrusa's house, I stood, transfixed by the beautiful moon and the bright planet nearby, which my son had told me was Saturn. Suddenly, a third bright object appeared for about a second, traversed an arc of about five to ten degrees of sky, and disappeared.
This was puzzling, because I'd been under the impression that "shooting stars" or meteor showers, only appeared in August. But when my son told me that a meteor shower was indeed anticipated, I felt reassured that what I'd seen was real.
On Friday night, about a week and a half later, when the possibility of imminent war with Iraq was in the air, I was walking to an Oneg Shabbat, musing on the passuk "kochavim mi'mesilotam nilchamu im Sisera," "the stars, from their pathways, fought with Sisera." That passuk appears in Sefer Shoftim in Shirat Devorah, and describes a miraculous intervention by the stars in behalf of the Jewish People in their battle with Sisera, general of Yavin.
As I looked skyward, it happened again! This time, the "meteor" executed a similar maneuver as had the first, and disappeared. Very strange! In fact, weird. Again, I was reasonably certain that I'd seen what I thought I'd seen, but also recognized the possibility of auto-suggestion, especially in view of the meditative state I'd apparently been in, and that there might have really been no meteor, or, for that matter, meteors!
However, what restored my confidence in the accuracy of my observations was the fact that there was a third meteor, and this time I was not alone when I saw it. The other observer and I were driving north on the Harlem River Drive, when it appeared. Neither the other witness, who wishes to remain anonymous, nor I, had any doubt about what we'd seen, and this seemed to confirm the accuracy of my earlier observations.
I think that the correct interpretation may be to compare those lights with the lights of Chanukah, and their purpose is likewise to "publicize the miracle." The miracle I refer to is that of the night sky, of the stars, whose array is vast beyond comprehension. It is a "nes nigleh," an open, revealed miracle.
Yet, we walk from place to place at night without even looking up, as if there were nothing of importance going on above our heads. In that sense, it is a "nes nistar," a hidden miracle.
And that is why we get the occasional break from the routine, which is far from "routine." Exceptional events: eclipses, the Northern Lights, comets, shooting stars - come to "publicize the miracle" of Creation, the miracle of "How great are Your works, Hashem."
When we are outside at night, we experience "ve'emunatecha ba'laylot," "Your faithfulness at night," for then, "ki Hashem yair neri, behilo nero alei roshi," "for when He lights His lamp over my head, Hashem gives light to my lamp, to my soul."
And we understand that not only is the "Maoz Tsur Yeshuati," the "Rock from Whom my salvation always springs" with me, but also, that arrayed in the night sky above me is also His handiwork, the Creation of the "Tzayar HaOlamim," as He is called in the Talmud, the "Artist of Eternity."
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU