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

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: Elohim 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 World! Can two kings possibly wear one crown?’ He answered, ‘Go, diminish yourself!’ She said before Him, ‘Master of the World! 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, 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-Qanah 6a).

“’On the heads of your new moons, [you shall present an ascent offering to YHWH] (Numbers 28:11). Now, how many heads does the moon have?’ (Zohar 3:248a)—there are two points, like so: ֶ  (segol)—Moon is the lower point. The two heads above are two points of segol over Her. First she was כֶּתֶר (keter), a crown, on two kings, like so:  ֒ (segolta). And following this was said, ‘Can two kings possibly wear one crown?’ (BT Ḥullin 60b). The blessed Holy One said, ‘Go, diminish yourself!’ (ibid.). She settled under the two kings’ feet. Like so: ֶ  (segol). What had been  ֒ (segolta) became ֶ  (segol)….

Consequently, ‘Bring an atonement עָלַי (ali), for Me [because I diminished the moon]‘ (BT Ḥullin 60b)—for the moon was surely כֶּתֶר (keter), a crown, ‘ali, over Me.’ Like so: ֹ  (ḥolem). And afterwards She was diminished and [came to] settle under His feet, like so: ֶ  (segol). And at the time of ‘bring an atonement for Me,’ it is said of Her, הִוא הָעֹלָה (hi ha-olah), she is the ascent offering (Leviticus 6:3). For She rises from [under] His feet, as is said, And the earth is My footstool (Isaiah 66:1), [that] it may be said of Her, The heavens are My throne (ibid.). And this is the mystery of [He who rules men,] צַדִּיק (Tsaddiq), the Righteous One, who rules in the fear of Elohim (2 Samuel 23:3). For He overturns Judgment for Compassion [see BT Yevamot 64a]. And the mystery of the matter, The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone (Psalms 118:22)” (Zohar 3:248a, Ra’aya Meheimna Pineḥas).

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)—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).