By Israel Drazin            



In my essay “The Mysterious Origin of the Monthly ‘Sanctification of the Moon,’” I showed that the practice is based on an ancient fear that the moon that had disappeared and is now seen as only a sliver, might disappear entirely. To forestall this disaster, those who recite this prayer resort to quite a few magical and mystic incantations and acts, such as sympathetic magic. It would have been sufficient to say a one line prayer thanking God for the beauty of the moon, but the mystics added several pages of seemingly nonsensical wordings that make sense once their mystical elements are understood. Netanel Baadani quotes my article in his 2012 Talmud Ha’igud, Sanhedrin Perek Chamishi, edited by Shamma Friedman, and also mentions some mystical notions about the moon that readers may find interesting.



Many Jewish mystics are convinced that God separated into ten parts, called Sephirot, and needs humans to help put the ten parts back together. God cannot do it alone. Once the joining occurs – or at least the combining of two Sephirot, the middle one Tipheret with the lowest one, the feminine aspect of God called Malkhut and Shekinah, the messianic age will begin. Mystics involve themselves daily in attempts to rejoin the Sephirot by prayers and “Sympathetic Magic.” Before performing a mitzvah, a practice such as using the lulav and essrog during the holiday of Sukkot, they say, Lesheim yichud: “I do this to help effectuate the joining of God.” The sympathetic magical ceremonies are an acting-out what is similar to what one wants from heaven, such as the up and down dance of American Indians performed to provoke rain to fall.


Mystic acts in the “Sanctification of the Moon Ceremony”

Baadani mentions three items. Non-mystics saw the phenomenon of the moon reflecting the light of the sun as being similar to Jews accepting the laws of God; but mystics saw it as a sign of the Sephira Tipheret (sun) joining with Malkhut (moon).[1]

Since the moon represents the aspect of God Malkhut, many mystics urged worshippers not to look at the moon during the ceremony of the sanctification of the moon.[2]

The Code of Jewish Law of the mystic Joseph Karo, the Shulchan Arukh, contains many mystical practices which the author states are religious requirements.[3] While the Talmud,[4] Maimonides,[5] and others[6] state that one should perform a mitzvah an the earliest opportunity, in this case when the first sliver of the moon is seen, Karo states[7] that one should not do so until seven days have passed so that the moon, representing the lowest Sephira Malkhut will be able to acquire its full light from the six Sephirot that are above it.[8] He also mandates that the prayer be said on Saturday night after Shabbat ends for this is an appropriate mystical time.[9]





[1] Page 132.

[2] Page 132.

[3] Such as washing one’s hands after awakening from sleep three times to rid oneself of demons who attached themselves to one’s body during sleep. The water should not be allowed to fall on the ground because it would contaminate the house. One washes three times is because when something is done three times there is a greater assurance of one’s goal being accomplished.

[4] Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 42a.

[5] Mishneh Torah, Laws of Prayers 10:17.

[6] See Baadani, page 126.

[7] Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim 426:2, 4.

[8] Many mystics understand that the top three of the ten Sephirot do not interact with humans as do the lower seven.

[9] Jews who say the Sanctification of the Moon prayer and observe the morning washing follow Joseph Karo’s mystical rule without realizing it was instituted for mystical reasons.