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Why Are There So Many Stars and Galaxies?

Why Are There So Many Stars and Galaxies?

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Dear Rabbi,

I am fascinated by a documentary I watched about astronomy and how many stars and galaxies there are.

What is the Jewish view on this? Why did G‑d create so many galaxies? What purpose do they serve?

Answer:

The account of the creation of the stars is found in a rather peculiar sounding verse in Genesis (1:16): “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.”

The Talmud points out a seeming contradiction in the verse. First we are told that G‑d created two great luminaries, and then at the end of the very same verse we are told that He created the great luminary and the lesser luminary. So what were they, two great ones, or one great and one small?

The Talmud explains that originally both were great, but then the moon complained to G‑d: Master of the Universe! Can two kings wear the same crown? Said G‑d to her: “Go diminish yourself.”1

To appease the moon after its diminishment, G‑d increased its hosts—the stars which serve as the moon’s entourage. When the moon comes out, they accompany it, and when it sets, they too set.2

In any case, the question remains: besides for “keeping the moon company,” why the need for so many stars and galaxies?3 Wouldn’t a couple hundred stars be enough? And what is their function in relation to our world?

Our Sages teach that there is not even a single blade of grass that does not have a mazal in the sky telling it to grow.4Mazal refers to the hierarchy of spiritual forces channeling G‑d’s creative force into the world.

We can understand the concept of mazal as follows: G‑d wished to create a physical and mundane world in which G‑dliness isn’t openly revealed, a world in which human beings are granted the power of free choice, a world in which we choose G‑dliness not because we are overpowered by its great light, but because we wish to do so.

To accomplish this, G‑d hid His creative power within the world.

Therefore, when it comes time for a small blade of grass, for example, to receive its spiritual “nourishment,” the Divine life-force that sustains it, G‑d channels its life-force through a whole hierarchy of beings with ever diminishing spiritual attributes—sort of like a system of pipes from a reservoir of water, carrying Divine energy. The “pipes” have no free will of their own, and have no choice but to fulfill their purpose of channeling the energy.

The creative force is filtered through a hierarchy of angels all the way down to the lower, individual angels in charge of each particular star and constellation. It is then further filtered down to the physical world through the spiritual sustaining force of each star (otherwise known as the star’s “soul’’). By the time it finally arrives within the blade of grass, the Divine light is completely hidden.5

As the prophet proclaims with regards to the stars and heavenly bodies (Isaiah 40:26), “Lift up your eyes on high and see, who created these, who takes out their host by number; all of them He calls by name; because of His great might and because He is strong in power, no one is missing.”

Every star has its own unique name by which G‑d calls it. The star’s name corresponds to the unique Divine life force which is channeled through the star into this physical world.6

Perhaps it is for this reason that there are innumerable stars in our universe.

Footnotes
1.

Talmud, Chulin 60b.

2.

Midrash Rabah Bereishit 6:4, cited in Rashi to Genesis 1:16. For more on the diminishing of the moon see The Lunar Files.

3.

All heavenly bodies, including planets, comets and asteroids, are included in the Torah under the generic term “star.”

4.

Midrash Rabah, Bereishit 10:6.

5.

Zohar, vol. 2, 171b-172a, Derech Mitzvotecha, Mitzvah of Milah, Sefer Mamarim 5689 p. 154. For more on this see Raging Flood.

6.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, Ohr Hatorah, Shemot 33; the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, Likutei Sichot vol. 6, p. 7; see also the commentary by Rabbi David Kimchi, the Radak, on Isaiah 40:26.

Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin responds to questions for Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi service.
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Holly Holmstrom Bangor, ME May 8, 2016

Stars and life force On my!! What a wonderful story!! I love it! Always feel so close to my Father reading Chabad!! Reply

Dr. Simcha Baker Modi''in, Israel December 9, 2011

The Creation Tapestry Besides the spiritual explanation given, perhaps the purpose of so many stars, galaxies and other phenomena were to impress His creations (us) with His infinite creative paintbrush - to challenge our minds with physical splendor which reflects on the infinite nature of Himself. Any artist wishes to express himself in the greatest and grandest way possible - and HASHEM is the greatest and grandest of all artists, by any standard or measurement possible. Just behold, enjoy, and marvel at HASHEM's glory! Reply

Anonymous MTL, CA December 8, 2011

Month of Av >? Perhaps this is also correlated with the relationship that exists with the astrosigns/the stars . A concrete example would surely be the month of AV ( and the prophecy of destruction IN the month of the (Lion By the Lion to be rebuilt by the Lion)...and many more such cases

Interesting and illuminating article ! Reply

Sol p December 7, 2011

Interesting. Very cool.

I was also thinking; perhaps, being that we will live forever with the coming of Moshiach - perhaps the entire universe was meant to be settled by us and made into a home for us and G-D as it were.

Forever is a long time - and we will need a lot room to settle down in! Reply