Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Sun Didn't Shine in the Wilderness

The pasuk states (as seen at the top of the blog),

"כי היא חכמתכם ובינכם לעיני העמים"

"For this is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations." (Devarim 4:6)

The Gemara understands that this is specifically referring to astronomical and (according to Rashi) astrological knowledge. The predictions of the celestial orbits and movements (and according to Rashi) and predicting future events is something that is able to be tested thus making this the wisdom that is the glory of the nation. (Shabbos 75a) I find it interesting that this knowledge of the sky is only mentioned in this parsha within the context of Moshe Rabbeinu preparing Klal Yisrael to enter into the land of Yisrael.

Also interesting is that later in the parsha we are taught that we need to be careful lest we look upwards and begin to serve the sun, stars, etc. (see Devarim 4:19) Why is it only now that Moshe was nervous, why not 40 years earlier when we left Egypt? To state that he was nervous because we would be living amongst nations that served these objects seems to be difficult from the pasuk itself. The pasuk mentions that we would be swayed after seeing the celestial objects and not the fact that we would be living amongst idolators.

Rabbeinu Chananel maintains that for the duration of Klal Yisrael's existence in the Wilderness they were unable to see the sky. During the daytime the clouds of glory obscured their vision and the fiery pillars did the same at night. (see Rabbeinu Bachye Shemos 12:2) Therefore, perhaps it was only now that this nation was to enter Eretz Yisrael and finally see the night sky that they would be able to utilize their mastery of the celestial objects for astronomy and astrology. It was only at this time that Moshe Rabbeinu felt it fit to discuss this wisdom and understanding. In addition, now that they could delve into these studies with the visual tools in addition to the mathematical calculations, they would, perhaps, become enamored by the sky and fall prey to their evil inclination and begin to serve these items. Therefore, Moshe needed to warn them of this tendency. For until this point, when they would look up they could not see these items, they only saw the glory of Hashem.

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