IMHO, landing on the Moon did/could seriously undermine the bases of the Jewish religious view about the nature of the celestial bodies.

How did Gdoley Israel react/deal with the landing on Moon (and maybe the space exploration in general) in their writings, talks, Shiurim? How did it influence the Yeshivisher world of that time?


4 Answers 4


Rav Menachem Kasher wrote the first sections of his האדם על הירח in response to this event. Throughout the work he discusses the moon landing from hashkafic and halachic perspectives.


Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky and the Moon landing

אמת ליעקב פרשת בראשית

ודברי רמב"ן אלה הם שעמדו לי בשעה שראינו איך שבני אדם יורדים מעל המטוס ע"י סולם על גלגל הלבנה, וחשבתי בלבי מה יענה כעת הרמב"ם ז"ל שכתב שהלבנה היא בעלת צורה רוחנית, והרהרתי בלבי שכעת נצחה הקבלה את הפיליסופיא, ונחמתי את עצמי בדברי רמב"ן אלו.

אבל כפי שאנחנו מתייחסים לדברי הראשונים שסוברים אנו בגדר של אלו ואלו דברי אלקים חיים א"כ אף על פי שבמקום זה אין הלכה כמותו אבל שיהיו דבריו דברי טעות לא יכולתי להשלים, ואם טעה הרמב"ם בהלכות יסודי התורה מדוע לא יטעה בהלכות שבת וכדומה? והנראה בזה, דהנה לכאורה יש לתמוה על כל הענינים שכתב הרמב"ם בארבעת הפרקים הראשונים של הלכות יסודי התורה, הא כתב הרמב"ם בסוף הלכות אלו [פ"ד הלי"ג] וז"ל: ועניני ארבעה פרקים אלו הם שחכמים הראשונים קוראין אותו פרדס וכו', ובחגיגה [דף י"א ע"ב] איתא: אין דורשין במעשה בראשית כו' ולא במרכבה ביחיד אא"כ היה חכם ומבין בדעתו וכו', וא"כ בודאי לא נכתבו עניינים אלו אלא נמסרו בעל פה מפה לאוזן, וא"כ איך כתבן הרמב"ם בחיבורו ופירסמם לכל, ובפרט שהרמב"ם עצמו [בפ"ד הל"י] הביא הדין הזה שאין דורשין בדברים האלו ברבים וכו', וא"כ מדוע כתבן בספרו?

ובעל כרחנו אנו צריכין לומר שמה שמסר לנו הרמב"ם בפרקים אלו אין זה לא מעשה מרכבה ולא מעשה בראשית, אלא כתב כל הד' פרקים אלה מדעתו הרחבה מתוך ידיעות בחכמות חיצוניות, כלומר שלא מחכמת התורה, אלא הרי זה פיליסופיא בעלמא - ונאמר שכבר השיג עליו הגר"א ביו"ד סי' קע"ט סקי"ג שהפיליסופיא הטתו ברוב לקחה ועיי"ש, והרמב"ם כתב פרקים אלו רק בתור הקדמה לספר יד החזקה, ועיקר הספר מתחיל מפרק ה': כל בית ישראל מצווין על קידוש השם וכו', ואין לדמות טעויות בהלכות אלו לטעויות בהלכות שבת וכדומה, ודו"ק..

As an aside, we learn from these words of the Ramban [on Gen. 1:1], and in particular from what he concluded in the continuation of his words on verse 8, that everything that exists in the creation in the entire world, including the sun, the moon and all the heavenly hosts, are not called “heavens.” The “heavens” are only things that have no physical bodies, such as angels, hayos and the merkavah. However, anything that has a physical body is included in the name “earth” in verse 1…

These words of the Ramban are what carried me when we saw men descending from a space ship on a ladder onto the surface of the moon. I thought to myself: “What would the Rambam, who wrote that the moon has a spiritual form, answer now?” I thought that at that point Kabbalah defeated Philosophy, and comforted myself with the words of the Ramban…

We are forced to say that what the Rambam told us in these chapters [Hilkhos Yesodei Ha-Torah, chs. 1-4] is neither ma’aseh merkavah nor ma’aseh bereishis. Rather, he wrote those four chapters from his deep mind and from his knowledge of secular wisdom, i.e. not from the wisdom of Torah but only from Philosophy… and the Rambam only wrote these as an introduction to the Mishneh Torah while the main part of the book begins with chapter 5…

  • 2
    THis is incredible, and very touching, thank you.
    – Al Berko
    Nov 19, 2019 at 23:52
  • 5
    The translation and the source don’t match up. The first paragraph in the translation is not in the Hebrew you cited. The second paragraph of the Hebrew does not appear in the translation. And the third paragraph, which appears in both, has a couple of curious elisions in the translation.
    – Alex
    Nov 20, 2019 at 13:18

The Lubavitcher Rebbe's reaction from Chabad.org:

Yes, the human being has performed something magnificent. There is much in which to take pride. But does that make us so large as to displace G‑d? Just the opposite! We only know the greatness of the Creator from the greatness of His creations. Now that we see He has created a being that is capable of such creative ingenuity, how much greater must be the One that formed this creature and endowed him with intellect!

At the same time, we have also provided ourselves yet more reason to be humble: If so many brilliant scientists could be so wrong about the impossibility of space travel and a moon landing, how many more of our current estimations are also wrong?

And then another perspective: When we want to see the greatness of the Creator, we lift up our eyes to the heavens. we want to see the greatness of the Creator, we lift up our eyes to the heavens, as the verse goes, "Raise your eyes heavenward and you will see: Who created these?!"

If from down on the ground looking up we can attain such enlightenment, all the more so when we can view the stars and galaxies—and our own planet as well—from beyond our atmosphere. And from that view of a vast creation, we step up to an entirely new level of conception of the infiniteness of its Creator—as well as our own smallness before Him. Now we can look down upon ourselves and see how small we are within this unimaginably immeasurable expanse of a universe, which itself is truly and absolutely nothing before the reality of its Creator.

All as Maimonides wrote in his code 800 years earlier:

What is the path to attain love and fear of G‑d? When a person contemplates His wondrous and great deeds and creations and appreciates His infinite wisdom that surpasses all comparison, he will immediately love, praise, and glorify Him, yearning with tremendous desire to know G‑d's great name, as David stated: “My soul thirsts for the Lord, for the living G‑d.”

Yet as he reflects on these same matters, he will also immediately recoil in awe and fear, appreciating how he is a tiny, lowly and dim creature, standing with his flimsy, limited, wisdom before He who is of perfect knowledge, as David stated: “When I see Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, I wonder, ‘What is man that You should mention Him?’ ”

If so, there should be no generation that appreciates the greatness of the Creator and the smallness of the human being more than our own.

  • chabad.org/multimedia/video_cdo/aid/4400427/jewish/… – user16403 6 mins ago
    – user16403
    Nov 19, 2019 at 21:08
  • I appreciate your effort, but I don't see how the Rabbi addresses the landing, this looks just like another general Drasha. How does he deal with contradictions to Rambam and the main Jewish worldviews?
    – Al Berko
    Nov 20, 2019 at 12:51

As reported here R Shlomo Goren proposed to change the text of kiddush levana, the monthly blessing on the moon's renewal

the answer began to emerge within hours of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing [...], the word came from Israel where Gen. [R] Shlomo Goren, the Armed Forces’ Chief Chaplain, issued instructions about a change in the prayer for the blessing of the new moon which is said each month. The old blessing was worded:

As I dance before you and cannot touch you, so my enemies will not be able to touch me.

and it now reads

As I dance against you and do not touch you, so others, if they dance against me to harm me, they will not touch me.

Rabbi Goren’s version of the prayer is actually an old one found in the Talmud in Masekhet Soffrim [מסכת סופרים], chapter 20 [section 2]

For further reactions, see also Rabbis and the Moon.

  • THis is exactly what I look for! Stories like this. I would mark it as accepted but I'm afraid that will prevent others from contributing their stories. Thank you very much.
    – Al Berko
    Nov 20, 2019 at 12:30
  • Happy it helped. No need to accept. I agree it might discourage others and you want as a broad a set of answers as possible
    – mbloch
    Nov 20, 2019 at 12:53
  • I'm trying to understand and follow Gdoylim's mind - how they deal with real-world Hashkafic problems.
    – Al Berko
    Nov 20, 2019 at 12:55

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