The sun, the moon, and the stars
|Public domain pic|
The first chapter (verse 16) of Bereishis recounts the creation of the sun, the moon, and the stars:
אֶת־שְׁנֵ֥י הַמְּאֹרֹ֖ת הַגְּדֹלִ֑ים אֶת־הַמָּא֤וֹר הַגָּדֹל֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַיּ֔וֹם וְאֶת־הַמָּא֤וֹר הַקָּטֹן֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַלַּ֔יְלָה וְאֵ֖ת הַכּֽוֹכָבִֽים:
And G-d made the two great luminaries: the great luminary to rule the day and the lesser luminary to rule the night, and the stars.
Based on Midrash Rabbah and Chulin 60b, Rashi explains: that first it refers to "two great luminaries" because oriringally the sun and the moon were equal. But the moon was made smaller because it brought charges and said, “It is impossible for two kings to use the same crown.”
The stars are then also mentioned after the moon is described as the smaller luminary because they came to accompany it at night after it was diminished.
A few months ago I thought of this take on the stars' role to support the moon. Though the actual number of stars is unknown to us, there is a specific number associated with them, and that is 11. One of the songs sung at the Seder is Echad Mi Yodea or "Who Knows One?" The answer to the question of "Who knows 11?" Is "The stars." That association comes from Yosef's dream of the sun,. the moon, and 11 stars bowing to him. However, there is more resonance to the number in connection to the luminaries.
A solar year last 365 days plus some hours. A lunar year extends just into 354 days plus some hours-- 11 days shorter. That makes the connection of 11 with stars particularly meaningful in light of Rashi's observation of their function. It's not only the moon's size that is smaller than the sun's, but the moon's year. The compensation for that shortfall is to be found in the stars, and so we have the son's association of the number 11 with the stars -- in general -- as that is the number of days that need to be "made up" to the moon after its losing equal standing to the sun.
Related post: http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-double-leap-year.html
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