Good are the radiant stars our God created,
He formed them with knowledge,
understanding and deliberation.
He gave them strength and might
to rule throughout the world;
Full of splendour, radiating light,
beautiful is their splendour throughout the world;
Glad as they go forth, joyous as they return,
they fulfill with awe their Creator’s will.
Glory and honour they give to His name,
jubilation and song at the mention of His majesty.
He called the sun into being and it shone with light.
He looked and fashioned the form of the moon.
Koren-Sacks siddur translation.
Sometimes it seems like either I get my apartment properly ready for Shabbat and have a proper dinner, or I actually get out to services, but not both. I was too exhausted on Saturday morning to do anything but sleep, and I was late enough getting out of the house for evening services that I might as well have not bothered, because they were all locked up–I felt like a criminal creeping around the grounds trying the doors and glancing up at the security cameras. Catholic churches are almost always open, even if you’ve missed Mass, if you want to go in and just chill (these days that applies only to the bigger ones, but it’s still the ideal). Jewish buildings are high security because unfortunately there’s a need for it.
So I walked home again, did havdalah, and because the moon was bright tonight I went out on my balcony to say kiddush levana. There is an overhang but it’s close enough to open sky for me, and I feel a little oddly exposed when I pray out there–I live in a complex with two buildings facing each other, so often when I’m on my balcony I’m trying to avoid eye contact with other people out on theirs. But I love kiddush levana, even though I wish I could be saying it properly with a minyan. The prayers are beautiful, and it represents a healthy balance between the human desire to venerate creation and the demand of monotheism to worship only one God. Kiddush Levana has the beauty of paganism, restrained and heightened by its self-imposed limits. I address my shalom aleichem to my view of the city at large, my birth-city which I love; to quote St. Columcille, it is for me “that noble angel-haunted city…the best-beloved place”.
The moon isn’t a deity in Judaism, and we bless it as we bless each other, as equals, all of us in the same universe together and made by a common creator. And of course in that vein, kiddush levana is especially appropriate tonight as we remember Neil Armstrong:
“For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.” — Armstrong’s family, announcing his death in a written statement
Shalom aleichem, then.