At the beginning of the Torah portion Bereishis , the verse states:1G‑d made the two great luminaries [the sun and the moon], the greater luminary to rule the day and the smaller luminary to rule the night.”

The Gemara notes2 that the phrase “G‑d made the two great luminaries” indicates that they were of equal stature. However, the verse goes on to say “the greater luminary… and the smaller luminary.”

How are these two portions of the verse to be reconciled? The Gemara answers that at the outset, G‑d made the sun and moon of equal brilliance. The moon then said to G‑d: “Is it possible for two kings to use the same crown?” G‑d responded: “Go and diminish yourself.”

Since “G‑d made… the greater luminary to rule the day and the smaller luminary to rule the night,” it is clear that from the beginning His intention was that one luminary be greater than the other. Why was there a need for such a “two-step process,” first creating them of equal stature and then diminishing the moon as a result of its “complaint”?

Creation resulted3 from G‑d’s gazing in the Torah — “The Blueprint of the World”4 — and accordingly creating the universe. Thus the sun and moon were created in accordance to their source in Torah. The reason they were first equal will be understood accordingly.

The Shaloh explains5 that the two luminaries within Torah refer to the Written Torah (the sun) and the Oral Torah (the moon). The Oral Torah is called “the moon” because it obtains its illumination from the Written Torah, just as the moon obtains its luminosity from the sun. Thus the Talmud often employs the expression “From whence do we know? For the verse states….”6 In other words, the Oral Torah is based on the Written Torah.

In light of the above, we can understand why the two luminaries were first created as equals, and only afterwards was there a diminishment in the light of the moon. That the Oral Torah is dependent upon the Written Torah only applies as it relates to the Jewish people, who received the Torah — they derive the laws of the Oral Torah from their source in the Written Torah.

However, from G‑d’s perspective as the Giver of the Torah, the Written Torah and the Oral Torah are equally great. Thus the Rambam states:7 “All the mitzvos were given [from Above] with their commentaries” …. He would tell him [Moshe] the commandment [the Written Torah], and then G‑d would relate to him its meaning and all its aspects [the Oral Torah].”

In a deeper sense, the Written Torah and Oral Torah are referred to as sun and moon not only because the latter receives its illumination from the former, but also because the Written Torah emphasizes the Giver of the Torah — the “sun” and benefactor, while the Oral Torah stresses the recipient — the “moon” and receiver.

Thus the Written Torah was transmitted with an exact number of letters, stressing that it is G‑d’s Torah and loftier than man’s comprehension, while the Oral Torah is a reflection of man’s comprehension. This is why when one does not comprehend what he is studying in the Oral Torah, it does not constitute Torah study at all.8

Just as this is so with regard to the “sun” and “moon” of Torah, so too with regard to the physical sun and moon. The difference between them is only as they find themselves within the world; as they exist before G‑d, they are of equal stature, for the moon is just as much G‑d’s creation as the sun. It is only that for them to serve their purpose within the world, the moon receives its illumination from the sun.

This is similar to a rich person and a pauper9 — another example of benefactor (sun) and recipient (moon). G‑d provides the pauper’s sustenance through the intermediary of the well-to-do person. For inasmuch as G‑d desires the mitzvah of tzedakah, He created the world in such a manner that there would be givers and recipients, the wealthy and the poor.

Thus, the poor person does not actually receive from the wealthy individual, but from G‑d (for everything which the rich person owns also belongs to G‑d). It is only with regard to the physical channel that the poor receive their sustenance via the rich.

So too, the moon told G‑d that in order for it to act its part in the world — the part of a recipient — it must receive its light via the sun.

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. XXX, pp. 8-14.