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  1. In general Kiddush Lavanah has always seemed to me to be akin to "Avodas Kochavim" - so does anyone know of a satisfying answer that works with Occam's razor?

    More specifically:
  2. We say Just as I can not touch you so should my enemies not be able to touch me. (a)It would seem that we are directly addressing the moon, hence the celestial worship... and (b)We debunked the idea that we can't touch the moon in 1969.
  3. Later on we say that is should be G-ds will that the light of the moon should be as the light of the sun. (a) The light of the moom is the light on the sun - and (b) even if you understand it to mean that they should be of comparable brightness - why would you want it to be "daylight" for 24 hours a day?

  4. It continues that we want the moons light ot be like the light of the 7 days of creation - This one is just full of mystery? (I'll leave the whole 7 day question for some other time) Was the light of creation some giant cloud of glowing plasma after the "Big Bang" event? Is there some reason we want to be bombarded with more radiation that even if our ozone layers offers us protection, would knock out our satellites?

I can come up with one reason for an event similar to Kiddush Levanah, but not sufficient to explain the service we now have. Also, it would seem to be more logical to say on Rosh Chodesh or as close too it as possible instead of first waiting several days. Our forefathers had to look to the moon to know that start of the new month. Looking at the moon and following its cycles was a mandatory part of Jewish life. Now that we are on a fixed calendar systems, there's no need to look to the sky at all to observe our Holidays. Some sort of "zecher" (remembrance) for this practice might be called for but if that was the intention, then I it would seem to me that we should recite only the main (2nd) paragraph, close the siddur and go home before we cross the line of "Ovdei Kochavim U'Mazalot".

Your insights would be appreciated.

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If the moon were to be as bright as the sun, it would only be daylight for 24 hours on the day of the full moon. At a new moon we would have a regular 12 hour night. –  Double AA Jan 22 '12 at 15:30

6 Answers 6

For question 1: The blessing is addressed to Hashem ("Who created the heavens with His word... Blessed are You, G-d, Who renews the months"), not to the moon. Where's the avodah zarah there? It's no different than the blessings on other natural phenomena, such as rainbows, notable mountains, etc, where we look at the object while praising Hashem.

[That said, there is indeed an opinion (Shaloh, cited in Mishnah Berurah 426:13) that one should not look at the moon at all during the actual blessing. Also, this is one reason that we recite Aleinu at the end of the service - to explicitly negate any idea that we are worshipping the moon or any other created being.]

For 2b: As has been quoted from Nefesh HaRav (and R' M.M. Schneerson writes the same thing in a letter dated Selichos 5731, published in Likkutei Sichos, vol. 15, p. 479), we are saying exactly this: right now, when I'm leaping up, I can't touch the moon. No matter how much resources and determination you have, a leap off the ground will never allow you to touch the moon; that is as true post-1969 as it was in ancient times. In the same way, then, we ask Hashem that no matter how much determination our enemies bring to bear, all of their efforts should get them no closer to harming us than our leap gets us closer to touching the moon.

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RE: Paragraph 1: Yes, the actual blessing that ends "Michadesh Chadashim" clearly addresses Hashem. However, in the following lines we say "just as I can not touch YOU" - There seems to be a consensus that "YOU" refers tot he moon, so it would appear that we are addressing the moon at that point with out supplication. It would make more sense if we're talking to Hashem that we say "HaLevana" (the moon). How do we see that line as talking to Hashem? Why would Chazal phrase the Tefillah so that there even appears to be an element of talking to the moon? –  Aaron Greenberg Dec 31 '09 at 19:06
    
RE Paragraph 2: Very interesting. So Scholars much greater than me, found the Tefillah as composed problematic enough to suggest ways to avert thoughts from it appearing as Avodat Kochavim). It would seem that like the comparisons you made to rainbows and mountains it would have sufficed to say the main bracha and that's all. If you close the siddur after the main Bracha - have you fullfilled the ikkur (main point) of the Mitzvah? –  Aaron Greenberg Dec 31 '09 at 19:10
    
Re Paragraph 1: So? In this week's parsha we find Yaakov addressing his soul ("kevodi" - see Rashi to Bereishis 49:6), telling it "don't be united with them," even though of course his soul has no independent power, and it's purely up to Hashem whether Yaakov's name will be associated with Korach's revolt. Same thing here: we can be addressing the moon yet knowing that the fulfillment of our wish is up to Hashem. –  Alex Dec 31 '09 at 19:31
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Re paragraph 2: Of course if you just say the main berachah you've fulfilled your basic obligation. But the following paragraph, with the "Just as I leap towards you..." phrasing, comes from Masechta Soferim (20:2), which was written in the early Geonic era, and is also highly authoritative. Why, then, should we omit this paragraph? Whatever concerns we might have about seeming to be idolatrous, those concerns certainly existed then too (all the more so, in fact, when worship of the heavenly bodies was still popular), yet that didn't stop them from composing it and recommending that we say it. –  Alex Dec 31 '09 at 19:31
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Aaron, please reread my last sentence: "In the same way, then, we ask Hashem that no matter how much determination our enemies bring to bear, all of their efforts should get them no closer to harming us than our leap gets us closer to touching the moon." We're asking Hashem to render all that advanced missile technology as useless in "touching" us as a simple leap, the kind we do during kiddush levanah. (Unless indeed your shul's custom is to go up for a ride in a rocket at that point of the prayer....) –  Alex Jan 4 '10 at 17:56

2) We say Just as I can not touch you so should my enemies not be able to touch me. ... and (b)We debunked the idea that we can't touch the moon in 1969.

It's poetry, not a statement of technological capability. If you stand outside looking at the moon, hundreds of thousands of miles away and yet a distinct object, with the possibility of enemy attack on your mind, this is a thought that may occur to you, whether it's possible to travel there or not.

In any event, I heard on Torah Tidbits Audio that R' Shlomo Goren, Chief Rabbi of the IDF at the time, proposed that we use an alternate version of the text that he found in an old manuscript that says "Just as I am not touching you" instead of "Just as I can not touch you."

Also, it would seem to be more logical to say on Rosh Chodesh or as close too it as possible instead of first waiting several days.

We only say Kiddush Levana when we can enjoy the light of the moon, as per the Rema quoted here:

Based on the gemara Sanhedrin 42, The Shulchan Aruch (OC 426:1) says that when you see the new moon you can make Kiddush Levana. The Rema adds that you can only say it at night while the moon shines and you can enjoy the light.

We assume that we can only enjoy the light at least 3 days (7 days, according to some traditions) after the Molad (approximate time of lunar conjunction - complete blackout), since before that, it only reflects a little bit of light to Earth.

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The "It's poetry" remark can't be argued with but at the same time seems like a cop out. However, I do appreciate the addition from R. Shlomo Goren, and the other answer regarding timing that follows. There is still the unanswered element of the question as to why we are directly addressing the moon with the phrasing of "you" instead of just referring to it as "the moon" as we would if we talking to someone other than the moon. It's interesting that 2b seems to have been readily addressed while I don't think 2a has been touched on. –  Aaron Greenberg Dec 10 '09 at 17:58
    
2b is an easier question to answer ... –  Isaac Moses Dec 10 '09 at 18:02
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"It's poetry" is only a cop out if you do not understand that a good chunk of our tefilos and scriptures are written in poetic language. –  Yahu Oct 27 '10 at 1:16
    
I agree with @Yahu. It's not a cop out if it was always intended that way. It's an overreach to say it is meant literally and is invalid now that some people have touched the moon. –  Seth J May 24 '12 at 14:19

(b)We debunked the idea that we can't touch the moon in 1969.

"Nefesh HaRav" discusses this -- we can't touch the moon WHILE we are standing/dancing here right now.

3) Later on we say that is should be G-ds will that the light of the moon should be as the light of the sun. (a) The light of the moom is the light on the sun - and (b) even if you understand it to mean that they should be of comparable brightness - why would you want it to be "daylight" for 24 hours a day?

If I recall correctly, R' Hirsch writes something to the effect of how our current system of nature needs occasional downtime; the early Creation mode was constantly "on", to which we transition in Olam HaBa.

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The Nefesh HaRav answer's I have heard before and always seemed weak. Given sufficient resources and determination we can touch the moon. Do we want the same for our enemies? For a thousand years people saying the Tefillah believed it was an impossibility. It was widely believed for a long time that the <i>Rakiya</i> (firmament) was a solid surface. Now that we know these concepts are wrong, the Nefesh HaRav arrives at the weak answer that we can't just reach out and touch at <b><i>that moment</i></b> so we still say it. -- I might as well be talking to my shoe lace since I can't touch that wh –  Aaron Greenberg Dec 10 '09 at 15:27
    
[continued comment of Aaron Greenberg's, converted from answer:] while standing either. Okay... maybe that's not a fair comparison - because <b><i>most</i></b> of mankind will never touch the moon in their lifetime, but the same can be said for the top of Mt. Everest, the bottom of the depths of the Pacific, etc.. I think asking that we be removed from our enemies reach (like the moon) must have meant that we should be beyond reach of all our enemies at all times. –  msh210 Jan 22 '12 at 16:00
    
[concluded comment of Aaron Greenberg's, converted from answer:] With regard to R'Hirsch: Why did Hashem rest on the 7th day if not for an example to creation that there's supposed to be occasional downtime? Why do we then daven for a lack of downtime on this earth? Every Shabbat we thank Hashem for the gift of downtime. –  msh210 Jan 22 '12 at 16:00
    
@AaronGreenberg, it's a metaphor, even if in the past (and immediately for you, me, and any non-astronauts) it was literal. –  Seth J May 24 '12 at 14:17

The Likutei MaHarich says that we say Aleinu L'Shabeach after Kiddush Lvana - since we pray and dance seemingly to the moon - we finish off Aleinu L'Shabeach L'Adon Hakol to show it is for Hashem.

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(a)It would seem that we are directly addressing the moon, hence the celestial worship...

We ARE addressing the moon -- a minute before that, we said "bless your Crafter, Maker, Owner, Creator." Talking TO the moon, ABOUT G-d.

We're all used to saying to someone, "may G-d bless you." This is the slightly weirder case of "you, may G-d bless me in some way similar to you."

"G-d, please make it that my enemies not be able to touch me, just as I'm not touching you, moon."

(Like "from your mouth to G-d's ears?")

Also raises the issue of which way do we face during kidush levana? Towards the usual direction of prayer, or towards the moon? I saw something about this in a Jewish newspaper a few years ago.

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Is this an answer to the question, or more questions? –  Seth J May 24 '12 at 14:20

Regarding 2a: I have seen people that have their back towards the moon while saying kiddush l'vana. I assume the reason is so that it doesn't look like they are worshiping it.

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Note: I have not seen this minhag brought down anywhere in seforim but if someone knows the source, I'd appreciate if you can post it. –  N123 Jan 4 '10 at 13:48

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