We ,in Montreal, had 'only ' a partial eclipse for viewing(safely).For the gentiles around us, it was an 'event'; for ourselves, the 'event ' coincided almost exactly with our beginning of Yom Kippur Katan prayers. It seemed extremely appropriate as our relationship to a 'likuy' of the sun ,is to increase introspection and davening , and this is especially so for Yom Kippur Katan , for Ellul.
In my general readings about this 'predictable 'coinicidence' of an event, which we as Yidden , know that nothing is simply a 'coincidence',I was somewhat caught up on the number I saw in the 'Aish ' site and elsewhere,that this 'coincidence' could never happen if not for the fact that the sun is 400 times further away than the moon , which is 400 times smaller that the sun.
In fact there are hundreds of moons in the solar system , and none of them effect such an eclipse on their 'mother planet'.
This made me think about the 400 men who came with Eisav whenwhen he went out to meet his brother Yaakov, which taught Yaakov , that he kept his hate alive in his heart^
We know there is a 'kabbalah '(brought down orally ) from the beis medrash of the Gaon from Vilna) that the last stop in our golus (which we know is called Golus 'Edom' ,ie 'Eisav') will be America.
What was special about this specific 'coincidence '^.It was the first full eclipse to take in all of America since its being founded as a nation (and only America).
Another eclipse, a lunar eclipse is also very connected with the beginnings of the Americas.The story is of how Columbus was saved by a full lunar eclipse , when the natives lost patience helping his stranded crew, until (guided by the prediction..................................
On Oct. 12, 1492, Columbus came ashore on an island northeast of Cuba, which he later named San Salvador (Holy Savior). Over the next 10 years Columbus would make three more voyages to the "New World." On his fourth and final voyage, while exploring the coast of Central America, Columbus found himself in dire straits.
He left Cádiz, Spain, on May 11, 1502, with the ships Capitana, Gallega, Vizcaína and Santiago de Palos.Unfortunately, thanks to an epidemic of shipworms eating holes in the planking of his fleet, Columbus was forced to abandon two of his ships and finally had to beach his last two caravels on the north coast of an island now known as Jamaica, on June 25, 1503.
Initially, the native peoples (Arawak Indians) welcomed the castaways, providing them with food and shelter, but as the days dragged into weeks, tensions mounted. Finally, after being stranded for more than six months, half of Columbus' crew mutinied, robbing and murdering some of the Arawaks, who themselves had grown weary of supplying cassava, corn and fish in exchange for little tin whistles, trinkets, hawk's bells and other trashy goods. With famine now threatening, Columbus formulated a desperate, albeit ingenious plan.
Almanac to the rescue
Coming to the admiral's rescue was Johannes Müller von Königsberg (1436-1476), known by his Latin pseudonym, Regiomontanus. He was a highly regarded German mathematician, astronomer and astrologer. Before his death, Regiomontanus published an almanac containing astronomical tables covering the years 1475-1506.
Regiomontanus'almanac turned out to be of great value, for his astronomical tables provided detailed information about the sun, moon and planets, as well as the more important stars and constellations to navigate by. After it was published, no sailor dared set out without a copy. With its help, explorers were able to leave their customary routes and venture out into the unknown seas in search of new frontiers.
Columbus, of course, had a copy of the almanac with him when he was stranded on Jamaica. And he soon discovered from studying its tables that on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 29, 1504, a total lunar eclipse would occur, beginning around the time of moonrise.
Armed with this knowledge, three days before the eclipse, Columbus requested a meeting with the Arawak chief and informed him that his Christian god was very angry with his people for no longer supplying him and his men with food. Therefore, he was about to provide a clear sign of his displeasure: Three nights hence, he would all but obliterate the rising full moon, making it appear "inflamed with wrath," which would signify the evils that would soon be inflicted upon all of them.
Bad moon rising!
On the appointed evening, as the sun set in the west and the moon started emerging from beyond the eastern horizon, it was plainly obvious to all that something was terribly wrong. By the time the moon appeared in full view, a small but noticeable dark scallop had been removed from its lower edge. [How lunar eclipses work (Infographic)]
And, just over an hour later, as evening twilight ended and full darkness descended, the moon indeed exhibited an eerily inflamed and "bloody" appearance: In place of the normally brilliant late winter full moon there now hung a dim red ball in the eastern sky.
According to Columbus' son, Ferdinand, the Arawaks were terrified at this sight and "with great howling and lamentation came running from every direction to the ships laden with provisions and beseeching the admiral to intercede with his god on their behalf." They promised that they would happily cooperate with Columbus and his men if only he would restore the moon back to its normal self. The great explorer told the natives that he would have to retire to confer privately with his god. He then shut himself in his cabin for about 50 minutes.
While in his quarters, Columbus turned an hourglass every half hour to time the various stages of the eclipse based on the calculations provided by Regiomontanus' almanac.
Just moments before the end of the total phase Columbus reappeared, announcing to the Arawaks that his god had pardoned them and would now allow the moon to gradually return. And at that moment, true to Columbus' word, the moon slowly began to reappear, and as it emerged from the Earth's shadow, the grateful Arawaks hurried away. They then kept Columbus and his men well supplied and well fed until a relief caravel from Hispaniola arrived on June 29, 1504. Columbus and his men returned to Spain on Nov. 7.
Of course , there is all kind of talk that Regiomontanus was a Yid (and Columbus a Marrano) ; maybe, but what is more interesting to me, is what a difference to history if Columbus did not return ! As we all know Columbus set out on his 'mission ' , 'coincidentally , when the Spanish exiled the Yidden form Spain (on the 9th day of Av, 'coincidentally ')- the Refuah before the Makkah (Hashem prepares the medicine before the punishment).
Last week we saw a terrible divisiveness in America, and we saw a president ,unable to lay blame .
Chazal say "Why is Eisav compared to 'chazir' , because it will ultimately return ('chozer") Malchus to Yisrael.Many were hoping that this would be the job of this president, but a chazir has another sign - it's signs of kashrus are only on the outside, but inside , a chazir is still treif.
I am not very qualified to write , but from the little I've seen , din, the middah of Eisav , divisiveness, has to do with the number 2: 2x2 = 4 10x10 = 100.The 400 men of Eisav.And when Yaakov realized that Eisav was coming with 400 men , he prepared by dividing his camp -- as the middah of Eisav is divisiveness.As Yaakov had told Rachel years earlier, he would fight the bad with their own middos.
We all know the medrash how ,originally the two 'kings ' the sun and moon were equal.The moon complained to haShem , who said to the moon to make itself small.We saw the moon at the eclipse reassert itself for a fleeting few moments.But malchus Dovid is compared to the moon , which comes , wanes and returns.but our real glory is to reflect the light of haShem , as we make ourselves small,not necesseraily the blinding light of the external world (such as that of the 'Startup Nation').
I don't believe it is for naught that we lained this week about the mitzva of appointing a a king.In fact for those hwo have a custome to learn a portion of the parsha every day , the eclipse happened on the day of that reading.
Dovid haMelch's 'Malchus' is compared to the moon which wanes, disappears and then regrows.The Seforim say 'les leh m'gromeh clum' - nothing from himself; all reflected light, the quiet inner light of revelation.
I was thinking that on the simplest plane we could take a limud from this eclipse erev rosh chodesh Ellul, that we are not bound by fate. If the Chazal talk about a 'bad omen' it does not need to be the reaction of those Indians of Columbus.If all is pre ordained mathematicaly ,that is also a 'bad omen' because then there is no 'avodah ', service of haShem.The possuk says in Mishley 'ein kol chodesh tachas hashemesh ' , but Rashi commnets that 'above the shemesh , there is new.'For us , going into the New Year , this should be a sign to remember what was said to Avraham 'Go out from your astrology', we can serve haShem directly.Ultimately all reflects our avodah.
This week's parsha deals with setting up courts guided by judges who are not afraid to speak the truth, and the appointment of a King who is guided only by our holy torah.The Rambam says the torah was given to us to bring peace to this world.
Never in history has mankind been in such danger as it is today , to, chas v'sholom , obliterate itself.
As this year ends ,let us pray for bias haMoshiach quickly in our day!