The Two Great Lights: The Greater Light and the Lesser Light

by tillerofthesoil

Marc Chagall;Double portrait with a glass of wine;1917-1918 CE“Rabbi Shim’on son of Pazzi pointed out a contradiction. ‘It is written: God made the two great lights (Genesis 1:16), and [yet] it is written [in the same verse]: the greater light and the lesser light. The moon said before the blessed Holy One, ‘Master of the Universe! Can two kings possibly wear one crown?’ He answered, ‘Go, diminish yourself!’ She said before Him, ‘Master of the Universe! Because I have suggested something proper I should make myself smaller? He replied, ‘Go and rule by day and night.’ She said, ‘But what is the value of this? What good is a lamp at noon? Seeing that her mind was uneasy [that she could not be consoled], the blessed Holy One said, ‘Bring an atonement for Me because I diminished the moon’” (BT Ḥullin 60b).

“When the moon shared a single cleaving with the sun, she was radiant. As soon as she was separated from the sun and appointed over her forces, she diminished herself, diminished her light…. Similarly the two lights, both ascending as one, in one enchantment. The moon was uneasy with the sun, ashamed in its presence…. How can a little lamp shine at noon?… How can I abide in shame? So she diminished herself becoming head of those below” (Zohar 1:20a).

Your desire will be for your husband (Genesis 3:16)—as is said: yearns for streams of water (Psalms 42:2). And he will rule over you (Genesis 3:16)—we have already established the mystery, that he has dominion over her. Why all this? Because the moon spoke, as we have learned, and consequently she diminished her light and her domain, and she has no authority of her own except when she is granted power” (Zohar 2:219b).

“Whenever male and female appear as one, they both are referred to in masculine language…. As soon as one separates from the other, each is referred to individually, appropriately: one is called great, and the other small…. Therefore the ancients said one should rather be a tail to lions than a head to foxes [see M Avot 4:15]. For when he stands among lions, all is designated by the category of lion—the tail of a lion is a lion, inseparably. Among foxes, even if one is the head, the head of a fox is a fox, inseparably, and is called fox” (Zohar 2:148a, cf. Sefer ha-Qannah 6a).

Who is this espied like the dawn, fair as the moon, dazzling as the sun, daunting as what looms on high? (Songs of Songs 6:10)—the Female” (Bahir §173).

“Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘The blessed Holy One will one day illumine the moon to be as bright as the sun, and the light of the sun will be seven times brighter, as is written: The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of the seven days (Isaiah 30:26)” (Zohar 3:178b).