Monday, March 29, 2010

Goodnight Moon

The climactic moment of the Ten Plagues was the final one, the killing of the firstborns at midnight. Last year I posted about the star Sirius' connection to this event. This year I would like to add one more point to that post.

An entire lunar cycle (from our perspective) takes approximately 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 3 1/3 seconds. Since this tenth plague occurred on the 15th of the lunar month, that means that the moon was full.

Many notice that the moon is sometimes visible in the daytime and at other times at night. The basic overview of its rise and set times is that in the beginning of the lunar month it is visible in the afternoon and sets just after sunset. Every subsequent day it appears a little later in the day and sets a little later in the evening. In the middle of the month it rises at sunset and sets at sunrise and it then begins to rise after sunset and set in the morning until the cycle begins again.

When putting all this together, one can see that at midnight,the moment of the plague, the moon was full and at its peak. The sun, on the other, has its peak at midday and is at its lowest at midnight. The other nations of the world are compared to the sun (see Maharsha Yoma 20) and Klal Yisrael to the moon (see Midrash Tehillim 22). This was finally the moment when Klal Yisrael was shining and at its peak and their oppressors were at their lowest.


Anonymous said...

I went back and read your piece from last Pesah--both are very interesting and will certainly be points of discussion at our seder. I must find the time to read Ibn Ezra. Considering that the moon was directly overhead “around midnight” I thought of what some refer to as “transit time,” that window of time around which the moon is directly above or directly below. Some believe these are periods in which wildlife are most active, even though it is not common for them to be so when “transit time” occurs during daylight hours. But Bnei Israel was indoors at this time and at least one midrash says that Moshe Rabeinu and Aharon were not about to go slinking around in the dark, even at Paro's plea. Further, were the Mitzri "dog people." I had them figured for cat people, based on iconography.

Hag Pesah Sameah


Ari S. said...

I apologize for such a delayed response. With Pesach happening, I have not had much of a chance to turn on my computer until now. Akiva, I hope your seder went well, and I appreciate the comments and am curious if anyone at your seder had any insights.

I am unfamiliar with the effects that transit time has on wildlife or what those ramifications would have had on Bnai Yisrael. Although, if it has a pronounced effect, that would shed light on the many midrashim that describe mass death as occurring in addition to the actual makkah.

The Egyptians worshipped many animals and deities, although Sirius was what they based their calendar around. See Noah Brosch's (astrophysict at Tel Aviv University) "Sirius Matters" for a much more detailed account.

Hag Kasher VeSameach