Roughly half the human race consists of kvetchers, beggars, and other discontent souls. The other half — people who are more or less satisfied with who they are and what they have, and don't need anyone's help, thank you — are called upon to sympathize with the neediness of the first half and contribute to its alleviation.

The interesting thing about this 50/50 split is that it cuts across all income brackets, IQ values and other "quality of life" indicators. Half the world are givers, and half the world are takers—and the half you belong to has little or nothing to do with how much you actually have.

(Before you discount this admittedly sweeping statement, take this simple survey: on a sheet of paper, list all the rich people you know in one column, and all the poor people you know in a second column. Now put a "plus" mark near the names of all the satisfied people in both lists, and a "minus" near all the dissatisfied people. You'll find the ratio unaffected by the group's wealth, status or any other factor.)

A case in point is the moon. The Torah (Genesis 1:16) relates how, on the fourth day of creation, G‑d made "the two great luminaries." But in the very next line these are identified as "the great luminary to rule the day" and "the small luminary to rule the night."

Our sages explain that initially the sun and the moon were equal in greatness and luminance—until the moon started complaining. The Talmud (Chulin 60b) records the following exchange between the second luminary and its Creator:

The moon: Master of the Universe! Can two kings wear the same crown?

G‑d: Go diminish yourself.

Moon: Master of the Universe! Because I have said a proper thing, I must diminish myself?

G‑d: You may rule both during the day and at night.

Moon: What advantage is there in that? What does a lamp accomplish at high noon?

G‑d: The people of Israel shall calculate their dates and years by you.

Moon: But the sun, too, shall have a part in that, for they shall calculate the seasons by him.

G‑d: The righteous shall be called by your name—Jacob the Small, Samuel the Small, David the Small.

Still G‑d saw that the moon was not appeased. So G‑d said: Offer an atonement for My sake, for My having diminished the moon.

Here we have the original kvetch. The moon had it all, but it was not satisfied. The sun wasn't bothered by the fact that both luminaries were "great"; it had what it had, and that was just fine with it. But the moon—even while still a "great luminary" itself—saw a deficiency in the status quo.

You're right, said G‑d. My entire creation is founded on the interplay between giver and taker, between the satisfied and the hungry. For it is in the tension and bond between them that they create new life, just as My own creative powers are born out of the relationship between Myself as giver, and my desire for a world as recipient. As you say, dear moon, two great luminaries won't do. Become small and dark and beg your light from the sun.

But why me? said the moon. Just because I'm the one who spoke up?

Exactly, said G‑d. The fact that you, and not the sun, are dissatisfied with the way things are, means that he's the giver and you're the taker!

G‑d then tries to explain to the moon that the recipient's role is just as great as the giver's. He cites the example of lunar time which defines Israel's path through history. He talks about the moon's invisible presence in the daytime sky, and mentions the greatness of humility. But the moon doesn't get it. Of course it doesn't! If it did it wouldn't be a moon.

And how does G‑d feel about the whole thing? He feels terrible. After all, He set up the moon to it, as He set up all the nudniks, kvetchers and beggars of His world. It is He who imbued them with the hunger and sense of inadequacy that makes them so gloriously great while preventing them from comprehending their greatness.

Forgive Me, says G‑d. One day you'll see that it was all worth it, but until that day comes, I acknowledge My need for atonement.

See also The Lunar Files.