In memory of our beloved grandmother, Dora Levine דבורה בת יעקב ע"ה, whose Yartzheit we commemorate this week.
Yesterday, we noted the well-known passage in the Gemara (Chulin 60b), cited by Rashi in his commentary to Parashat Bereishit (1:16), which tells about the creation of the sun and the moon. Initially, the Gemara comments, the sun and moon were created equal size, but the moon protested, noting the impossibility of “two kings ruling with the same crown.” In response to the moon’s complaint, God diminished its size.
Much has been written about this account of the creation of the luminaries, and the message it symbolically conveys. One insight emerges from Rashi’s concluding remarks to this verse, where he writes regarding the creation of the stars, “Because He diminished the moon’s size, He gave it a large cadre in order to put its mind at ease.” God sought to comfort the moon, as it were, after it lost its stature, and so He created a very large “cadre” of stars serving under it.
Assigning a large group of underlings is a sign of importance and prominence. Even though God strongly disapproved of the moon’s complaint and decided upon an especially severe punishment, He nevertheless found it necessary to have the moon maintain its sense of dignity and worth. It was shown that despite the grave mistake it made, it is still a very important part of creation, and prominent enough to have a vast array of stars serving alongside it.
Chazal here are likely teaching us of the need to show our respect even to those whom are deservedly punished or reprimanded. In this story, the moon was given a degree of honor after it was found worthy of the humiliation of having its size reduced to a fraction of its original stature. The lesson conveyed is that even when criticism or punitive measures are warranted, we must still express respect. People deserve dignity and a sense of self-worth even after making grave mistakes or speaking foolishly, like the moon in this story. Nobody should feel that he or she has forfeited the right to respect because of a severe mistake. Just as the moon was given a cadre of stars after it was penalized, we must likewise ensure to show respect to children, students, and all people even when we deem them worthy of criticism or punitive measures.