22 Oct, 2020
JERUSALEM WEATHER

The largest supermoon of the year will appear overhead as Jews around the world perform a very special version of the Passover seder that more closely resembles the first version of the ritual observed in Egypt while the Angel of Death roamed the streets.

On Wednesday night, Jews around the world will be gathering at home for the Passover seder ceremony first performed  3,332 years ago on the night before the Israelites left Egypt. One part of the ceremony requires opening the front door and inviting all who are hungry to enter. When this is done, a glance to the heavens will reveal an astronomical spectacle: the year’s largest supermoon.

A supermoon occurs when the full moon coincides with the perigee — the closest that the Moon comes to the Earth in its elliptic orbit — resulting in a larger-than-usual apparent size of the lunar disk as viewed from Earth. A full moon at perigee appears roughly 14% larger in diameter than at apogee and appears up to 30 percent brighter. Supermoons usually appear 3-4 times each year.

This will be the second month in a row that features a supermoon. Last month, a supermoon appeared on the holiday of Purim. This is not unexpected as both Purim and Passover occur in the middle of the Hebrew month, Purim on the 14th of Adar and Passover on the 14th of Nisan. The Hebrew calendar is lunar with the month beginning with the appearance of the new moon. Therefore, the full moon will always appear in the middle of the month. 

The supermoon on Passover will be the fourth of the year and the largest, appearing when the moon is at a distance of 221,772 miles from the earth, the closest it will be all year. 

“The supermoon on Passover is not happenstance,” Rabbi Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, told Breaking Israel News. “God brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt on a specific day, a day that from the beginning of creation was imbued with special powers of redemption. The Midrash (homiletic teachings) say that the first redemption of Israel took place on this night and the final redemption will as well.”

“These primal powers of redemption reemerge every year on the Seder night,” Rabbi Berger said. “They are there, waiting for us to access them. It is a night that miracles are waiting to be revealed.”

The rabbi cited a verse in Micha to illustrate his point.

I will show him wondrous deeds As in the days when You sallied forth from the land of Egypt. Micah 7:15

“Seder has always been a time of ingathering,” Rabbi Berger noted. “Except for the first Passover held on the night before leaving Egypt. On that night, families huddled inside will the Angel of Death roamed the streets. This year is like that since the tenth plague was referred to as an epidemic.”

Rabbi Berger referred to the word in the Bible describing the plague of the First Born as a נֶגֶף (negef: disease).

Rabbi Berger also noted that a supermoon was incredibly appropriate for the holiday of redemption.

“One of the wonders that will be seen in the end-of-days is an increase in the moon,” Rabbi Berger said.

It is interesting to note that the appearance of the sun and the moon being the same size is the product of a set of coincidences that are unique to the Earth. The sun is 400 times larger than the moon but because the moon is 400 times closer than the sun, they appear to be the same size in the sky. Were this not so, solar and lunar eclipses would be impossible.

Rabbi Berger cited a section of the Talmud (Hulin 60B) which deals with the seeming contradiction in the Biblical verse describing the creation of the sun and the moon.

Hashem made the two great lights, the greater light to dominate the day and the lesser light to dominate the night, and the stars. Genesis 1:16

The talmud notes that the beginning of the verse describes to great lights while the end of the verse describes only one, the sun, as being great. The talmud relates a midrash (homiletic teaching in which the moon said before the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, is it possible for two kings to serve with one crown? One of us must be subservient to the other. God answered the moon saying, “If so, go and diminish yourself.” The moon was distressed at being diminished upon raising a valid point. God then tried to appease the moon, saying that unlike the sun, the moon will appear during the day as well as the night. God also noted the importance of the moon in the calendars and that many holy men would be known as ‘small’. None of these claims comforted the moon.   God then requested that a sin offering be brought in the Temple on every new moon to atone for His injustice.he Holy One, Blessed be He, said: Bring atonement for me, since I diminished the moon. 

“Just as we long for the final redemption to cleanse our sins, God longs for it for the same reason. Just as we long for the Third Temple, God longs for a house to dwell among us,” he said, citing a verse in Haggai to support this claim.

Thus said the lord of Hosts: These people say, “The time has not yet come for rebuilding the House of Hashem.”And the word of Hashem through the Navi Chagai continued:Is it a time for you to dwell in your paneled houses, while this House is lying in ruins? Haggai 1:2-4

This injustice will be rectified in the end of days,” Rabbi Berger said.“In the end of days, the sun and the moon will be equally ‘great’.”

According to NASA, the Moon is moving away from the Earth at a rate of about four centimeters per year, due to the tidal interaction between the Earth and the Moon. If this is true, the moon is becoming less prominent in the sky, directly contradicting the prediction made in the Talmud. This trend is estimated to continue for the next 50 billion years at which point the moon’s distance will stabilize. 

Unless something unexpected happens.