Dear reader,

Toya Graham is the Baltimore mom caught on video a few months ago raining blows on her son as she pulled him out of the Baltimore riots. Her approach worked. Her 16-year-old son knew his mother’s tough love was for his own good.

But what if the child being punished doesn’t realize the slaps are coming from love, for his benefit?

At the end of this week’s Torah portion, we have an unusual command: to bring a New Moon sacrifice, offered on behalf of G‑d, as His sin offering. Rashi explains, “The goat brought on the first day of the month differs (from other offerings), as it says ‘to G‑d.’ The Holy One said, ‘Bring atonement for Me because I diminished the moon.’” (Talmud, Shevuot 9a)

Why would G‑d bring a sin offering?

The Midrash explains that in the beginning of creation, the moon complained that both she and the sun shone with the same brightness. G‑d, then, commanded the moon to make herself smaller. But G‑d admits this is unfair, and brings a sin offering to atone for the moon’s injustice. (Talmud, Chullin 60b)

G‑d is the ultimate source of goodness; every interaction that He has with creation is necessarily an expression of good. But, as with any parent’s interaction with her child, there can be two sources of goodness. Revealed Good are the times when a parent will play with her child, give praise and rewards. Concealed Good are those times when she needs to withhold and to discipline, when the motivation for her actions is still love (and even more so!) but it may not be apparent.

The sun represents those times when there is light, love and laughter in our lives. We feel in sync with our Creator and joyful for His abundant goodness. The moon, which represents the Jewish people, waxes and wanes and resembles the dark periods of our history, when we were banished from our land and our light was almost extinguished—like the current period of the Three Weeks of mourning.

Perhaps G‑d wanted us to celebrate, too, the concealed good. Even when we feel His strong hand, the love should be evident. Even in those dark nights of exile, we should experience the moon’s brightness.

But, as the moon pointed out, that doesn’t work in our world. G‑d’s alienation is felt acutely, and we yearn for the warmth of the sun’s rays. Ultimately, in retrospect, we may be able to appreciate these times of discipline, but right now the suffering is far too overwhelming, too harsh, and feels disproportionate.

And perhaps it is for this—for our perception and pain despite the underlying love—that G‑d offers the sin offering, asking us for forgiveness.

We may not understand it now. But in the time of Moshiach, the moon will be returned to her glory. The concealment and suffering will disappear as we perceive G‑d’s open and revealed goodness.

May it happen now.

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW