What Can We Learn From The Moon Through Each of Our Senses?

The moon, its fall from greatness (and promise of return), reflects human experience, mirroring our sense of exile and alienation and the waning and waxing hopes of being great again. She mirrors the journey of the people of Israel in exile, subjected to the rule of other nations, longing for homecoming. The moon reflects the experience of the second-class citizen – immigrant, refugee, Jew, dreamer, woman – and God, Shechinah, the feminine receptive side of divinity that went into exile with Israel since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

So, assuming that the moon has learned her lesson, the lesson of millennia of exile, what can we learn from her? What follows is a meditation of sorts, seeking seven lunar lessons for 5777. What can we learn though them from the moon?


Sound requires something quite rare in space, an atmosphere. On the surface of the moon there is no audible sound because it has none. Our relationship with the moon is wordless, and wondrous. Let us invite more silence into our lives. It can be likened to a ‘firmament in the heavens’ that allows the waters below to reflect the waters above and for life (and love) to thrive in between. “When the great shofar is sounded, the subtle sound of silence is heard.”


There may be no sound on the surface of the moon, but there is a smell, like spent gunpowder, described by astronauts. Why? For millennia, asteroids have hammered the surface of the moon, smashing rocks and molecules, leaving them with “dangling bonds.” These well-preserved particles combine with the water molecules and follicles in the human nose to create the smell of recent fusion, or a smoking gun. The consequences of violent clashes are long lasting. The ‘dangling bonds’ left in their wake, real and metaphoric, can be healed, made whole with a breath in through the nostrils. First, just breathe. Inhale, receive, and heal. Then, get nosey, sniff the broken bits of ages past. Are we learning from our mistakes or leaving a stink for others to clean up?


Since the moon’s axle rotation is synced exactly with its orbital pace around the earth (mah norah! How amazing is that!?), from here we can only ever see one side of it. Even when the moon is “full,” at least half of it is hidden from our point of view. Let’s remember that no matter the situation, we can only ever see (at most!) half the story. This awareness should make us curious about what we do not know, the “other side of the story.” We ‘walk humbly’ when we infuse our vision with curiosity.


With no atmosphere, the temperature on the moon’s surface varies drastically, from -250° to over 200° F. The nearly 500° swing between extreme hot and cold happens in mere moments. It puts even the most erratic human temperament in perspective. Consider how the slightest variations in temperature impact our ability to function. Reconsider the cultural bias that hot is attractive and cold is distant. We skiers and boarders of Colorado know better. It’s the ability to close the gap between those mercurial extremes that sustains life, honoring the heat of passion and the cool clarity of reason. With the seasonal temperature dropping outside, let’s remember to add layers of connection as we add layers of clothing.


Sometimes that which we strive for is just a reflection of what we truly desire. And sometimes, it’s merely a reflection of a reflection. In folktales from around the world we can find stories of simpletons mistaking the reflection of the moon in water for the moon itself, or even for a wheel of cheese. The “wise” men of Chelm tried to capture the moon in a barrel of water. And in a fable related by Rashi, Fox convinces Wolf to climb down into a well to fetch the wheel of cheese at the bottom. How often are we, like the wolf, lured into a near empty wells by an appetite seduced by the reflection of a reflection? May the cycles of the moon remind us to stop chasing mirage-like reflections of what we truly need.

Two more senses.


We exert more influence upon our surroundings than we can see or know, even at great distances. Day or night, the moon’s gravitational impact on the ocean waters is measurable. Furthermore, though it’s unseen and even harder to measure, the pull of the moon is even greater on land, and its inhabitants. Like the moon, each of us is a gravitational force, constantly exerting its influence on the world around us, near and far. As we honor the moon, and the gravitas of others in our orbit, let us likewise honor our inherent power and the unique and indispensable ways that we each reflect a great light.


The light of the moon can be brilliant and beautiful, and literally make all the difference in the world. And, the light it has to offer is borrowed. The moon is not the source of the light it shares. Is this not true of us as well? As we shine our light, individually and collectively, let us acknowledge that it’s all reflected light. And sometimes, when skies are dark, when we want to have an impact, all we have to do (and perhaps all we can do) is to reflect the light of another. May we live these moon-inspired lessons into the new year:

  1. Listen. Receive the power of silence.
  2. Inhale and receive lessons from ancient aromas.
  3. Accept the limits of our vision, and respond with curiosity.
  4. Create an atmosphere that allows extremes to touch.
  5. Guide our appetite for connection from mere reflections to their true source.
  6. (& 7) Hold both truths as self-evident: that each of us is indispensable and influential beyond measure, AND that what we can offer is borrowed.
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