This August 21 (eve of the month of Elul on the Jewish calendar), daylight will suddenly become twilight. Birds will cease their chatter. Temperatures will plummet. Massive streamers of light will streak through the sky around the silhouette of the moon.

There will also be some real bad traffic. About 25 million people live within a day’s drive of the “narrow band of totality”—the perfect view of the solar eclipse that will make its path across America.

And how could you miss it?

Astronomy is pretty much built into Judaism. For much of our history, that’s how you figured out when the months and years began, and which direction to face so that you could pray towards Jerusalem.

It’s also considered Astronomy is considered a great way to get to know your Creator and fall in love with Him.a great way to get to know your Creator and fall in love with Him.

In the words of the great codifier of Jewish law, Maimonides:

When a person contemplates G‑d’s wondrous and great deeds and creations and appreciates His infinite wisdom that surpasses all comparison, he will spontaneously love, praise and glorify Him, yearning with tremendous desire to know His great name, as David sang: “My soul thirsts for the L‑rd, for the living G‑d” [Psalms 42:3].1

And the sages of the Talmud:

Anyone who knows how to calculate the astronomical seasons and the movements of the constellations and does not do so, the verse says about him: “They do not take notice of the work of G‑d, and they do not see His handiwork” (Isaiah 5:12).2

“Do you want to recognize the One who spoke and the world came into being?” said Rabbi Meir. “Do astronomy.”3

As for the solar eclipse, we found a true expert on the topic:


Cosmic Design For Meat-Heads—An Interview With an Expert

Tzvi Freeman for Chabad.org: Hey Solly, it’s great to have you on the show. So you were on the original team that engineered the solar eclipse?

Angel: Let’s just say we took care of implementation. The design…

TF: So what’s the big deal for a cosmic engineer? Just line up a moon in front of a sun, and, hey, you’ve got an eclipse!

A: [Blank stare]

TF: Like, earth . . . moon . . . sun . . . umm . . .

A: You humans are made of meat, aren’t you?

TF: Meat?

A: I mean, like your brains, too. It’s meat up there? ’Cuz that explains a lot. [holding head in hands] Oh, why? Why did we ever bother attempting this? They’ve had thousands of years, and they still don’t appreciate our incomprehensible genius. What can you expect from a walking meat patty?

TF: Let me explain again. It’s simple . . .

A: Not so simple, Tzvi. You see, to get a perfect solar eclipse, from the perspective of some meathead standing on Earth and looking up at our favorite orbs, the moon has to appear to be exactly the same size as the sun—but just a very slight degree smaller. Problem there: The sun’s diameter is overwhelmingly gigantic compared to the puny little moon. Like 400 times bigger.

TF: Whoa—so how does such a tiny speck cover up such a giganormous sun?

A: Yes, that was the problem. Like let me hold up a picture of what happened when we did a beta-test eclipse with Mars and its moon:

TF: Lousy job there.

A: No worries. We knew there wouldn’t be any people on Mars to see it for a really long time. So we did the math real careful-like for Earth and concluded we’d have to put the sun exactly 400 times further from the earth than the moon—but just a nudge less. I’m going to project a diagram now for the audience.

TF: But we don’t have a projector!

A: You do now—courtesy of Heaven Incorporated.

A: Get it? 1392000/3478 = 400.23001725.

TF: Cool.

A: Distance of earth from sun: ~150 million km. Distance of moon from earth: ~384 thousand km. 150000000/384000 = 390. That gives you a moon just slightly smaller than the sun—perfect for viewing the sun’s most outer layer with the naked eye.

TF: Well that’s pretty simple.

A: Oy.

TF: Can I get you a cold glass of water?

A: Tzvi, I’m sure even meat-patties like you get some tough assignments in life. The kind where the boss throws so many requirements at you, it looks downright impossible.

TF: Sure, like interviewing an angel.

A: Well, we were given a rather detailed spec sheet for this job. Take a look at this:


Project Solar Eclipse

Objectives:

  1. Human beings will gradually learn to predict movement of cosmic bodies and recognize elemental forces of cosmos, including insights into the principles of gravity (through observation of movement of cosmic bodies), the electromagnetic spectrum (through observation of chromosphere during solar eclipse), and nuclear forces (with the aid of that same solar eclipse), with an ever-receding horizon of understanding.

  2. Humanity will come to realize that like everything in nature that they take for granted, a solar eclipse is another exemplar of the astonishing miracles of everyday creation.

Requirements:

  1. Intelligent life, capable of recognizing cyclical patterns and reducing them to formulas that attain accurate predictions.

  2. Habitat capable of sustaining such intelligent life.

  3. Atmosphere to protect such life from hazardous cosmic rays, asteroids, etc., while simultaneously allowing such life to observe cosmic bodies and their movements.

  4. Habitat must be placed in a geometrically guided system simple enough to deduce from frame of reference of this intelligent life, sufficiently distant from dense galactic center for clear observation, yet close enough to have something to observe.

  5. Large, spherical light-emitting body (heretofore known as “sun”) close enough to be observed as well as to provide necessary conditions for said intelligent life, yet far enough so as not to toast it.

  6. Smaller body closer to frame of reference of said intelligent life, placed so as to appear just as round as abovementioned sun, large enough to cover the photosphere of the sun, but not so large as to cover the (otherwise imperceptible) chromosphere of the sun.

  7. Said smaller body must follow a trajectory that allows for predictable perfect alignment with that sun.

  8. Simultaneously, said smaller body will act as a critical element for favorable conditions of said intelligent life.


TF: Whoa, that’s ridiculous! Too much! Just no way! So how did you handle that? Didn’t you want to just throw your hands up in the air and walk off the project?

A: Well, we don’t have hands, for one thing. And we don’t walk. We’re just intellect without bodies. What you see here are avatars. But it was tough nonetheless. At first we thought it was impossible.

TF: So you asked for some wiggle room in the requirements.

A: So at first we figured, maybe we’re meant to make this habitat a moon. Maybe that would make the eclipse much easier.

TF: Hey, good thinking!

A: But no, that just made orbits and sizes even more impossible. And, besides, the intelligent life would never be able to figure out the movement of things. It would all look just so complicated that it might as well be random.

TF: I can imagine Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, et al, on the moon, trying to figure out what on earth is going on. One too many degrees of complexity.

A: So back to planets. We had to find a perfect ratio for the size of the sun and the distance of a planet spinning about it that would allow for the right temperatures, visibility, etc.

TF: You couldn’t fiddle with those parameters?

A: Hey, we’re just implementation. The gravitational constant, speed of light, electron charge and all that stuff was already set before we came on the job.

TF: So you were stuck.

A: Actually, no. That’s when we realized those constants were set up perfectly for the job. The fundamental parameters of the universe were dictating to us precisely how this event was to be set up.

TF: Okay, so now you found the right distance for the sun . . .

A: Which is real tight. Just a little closer or further, the whole H2O deal, the oxygen, carbon, nitrogen levels, temperatures—none of that could work.

TF: And the moon distance?

A: Same deal. We couldn’t make the moon smaller and super-close, because that would be a big problem for tides, axial instability—lots of stuff. So it had to be super-big in comparison to the planet.

TF: Hey, you just told me it was a speck!

A: Relative to the sun, yes. But humongous in comparison to the habitat planet. Here’s a chart to show that:

TF: That’s incredible! But wouldn’t such a relatively large moon just rip apart the planet?

A: Has it?

TF: No.

A: It’s all an outcome of those original parameters. We were able to put it far enough away that it wouldn’t be ripped apart and make rings like those around Saturn, but close enough to provide a total eclipse.

TF: Talk about economy of design!

A: We haven’t even touched on that yet. Get this: Once we determined the exact size and distance needed for the photosphere eclipse, we realized those were also the perfect conditions necessary to sustain an intelligent life-form observer on the planet!

TF: How does that work?

A: Without an enormous moon like this, your planet’s axis would be real wobbly. But the moon’s mass, at its perfect distance, is just what’s needed to stabilize the planet’s rotational axis.4

TF: I’m losing you.

A: The tilt of the axis is what makes the seasons. So with an unstable axis, sometimes you would get wildly extreme seasons, freezing half the planet and burning the other. And sometimes you would have almost no seasons at all. Without the stabilization that the moon’s mass provides, these changes would happen too quickly for life to adjust.

TF: So you might have life, but it wouldn’t be intelligent like us.

A: Hey, it takes a lot of stability to sustain intelligent meat.Then there’s the planet’s rotation, which gives you day and night. With the moon as it is, you get a nice 24-hour day that keeps the temperature fairly even from pole to equator. Change that, and you’ll either spin so fast that the poles get colder and the tropics hotter, or so slowly that the days are too hot and the nights too cold.

TF: Just because it’s in the right place for an eclipse?

A: And as soon as the moon drifts out of the zone where it can make the ideal eclipse, all that stability is kaput!

TF: But why should earth’s stability have anything to do with requirements for an eclipse?

A: And then there’s tides. Tides keep nutrients flowing from land to sea, sea to land. They help transport heat from the equator to the poles—so Miami doesn’t melt. And that’s how the deep sea currents work, too. Hey, Europe would be frozen over without the gravitational pull of that enormous moon on the ocean!5

TF: And there are no other planets in the solar system with eclipses?

A: Well, there’s one. Out of close to 200 moons, there’s one. There’s the potato moon.

TF: Potato moon?

A: A.k.a. Prometheus. It’s a moon to Saturn. It comes into alignment with the sun once in a while.

TF: So we’re not unique!

A: But there’s a problem. It’s a potato.

TF: Oh. I see. That wouldn’t look too spectacular.

A: It does do an eclipse—for about a second. And as you can see, no total eclipse. But the closest you get outside of Planet Earth.

TF: But it’s an alignment.

A: Well, yes, alignments are good. That way, humans begin to realize how clockwork everything out there is. They start putting math and science together.

TF: Never understood why math and science should work together.

A: No reason. Just another set-up job.

TF: Huh?

A: But alignments alone are not enough to achieve our objectives. The idea is also to make the chromosphere visible. And that happens because the visible sphere of the moon is just slightly smaller than that of the sun. So it blocks out the photosphere of the sun—the sphere you usually see—thereby allowing you to see the outer layer, namely the chromosphere. And some of the outer flares, as well.

TF: What for?

A: Hey, without viewing that chromosphere, you people would never have discovered helium—the second most plentiful element in the universe. You would have little idea of what stars are made of. Astrophysics would never have gotten off the ground.

TF: Astrophysics is cool.

A: Along with a lot of physics.

TF: We need physics.

A: Including Einstein’s relativity—which was proven by observation of the bending of light during an eclipse! Basically, the solar eclipse provides the clues that the universe is a never-ending mystery. Not some closed system, but a wonder of infinite depth.

TF: So let me get all this straight. You’re saying that the same conditions that are necessary to stage an eclipse that will reveal the chromosphere are the same conditions necessary to support intelligent life that can observe that eclipse and learn from it!

A: Yes! Now you’re getting it!

TF: Because an eclipse is entirely a subjective experience. So no observer, no eclipse.

A: You’re really thinking now!

TF: And these conditions, like the distance and mass of the moon, of the sun, our place in the universe . . .

A: All amazingly synchronized to fulfill two conditions at once!

TF: And there’s no real reason that should be so!

A: No. No physical reason. Like you said, economy of design. Way beyond anything that ever came out of Cupertino.

TF: But how could that be?

A: Are you getting it? Are you getting it? There’s only one way this could be. There’s no way you can design without any workarounds or glitches like this and such economy of design unless…

TF: Unless?

A: Unless the same One who makes the design is the same One who sets up the fundamental parameters of time, space, energy, mass and movement! Basically, existence and design—hardware and software—all from the same Manufacturer.

TF: What an amazing coincidence! Wow, life’s like that, you know. Full of coincidences!

A: I think I need a therapist.6

See Also