A Tale of Faith: The Promise of "Kiddush Levana"

"Kiddush Levana" is recited on Saturday nights when the moon is full, outside the synagogue. The prayer says: "Just as I cannot touch the moon, so may my enemies be unable to touch me." A poignant tale of Jewish faith and courage.

Larry Domnitch,

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חלל (הדמייה ממוחשבת)


Kiddush Levana prayers are offered to sanctify and praise one of G-d's creations - the moon. When the moon is visible between the third and fourteenth day of the lunar cycle, Kiddush Levana, literally "sanctifying the moon",  is recited outdoors by synagogue congregants right after the Sabbath is over, while looking up at the moon.

The Kiddush Levana prayer draws a comparison between the moon, the lunar cycle and the Jewish people. Just as the appearance of the moon diminishes when it wanes, and then reappears, so too, the Jews from their darkest eras, facing grave dangers, will reemerge to once again shine.

Jewish writer, playwright, and ethnographer Shalom Anski Rappaport traveled though war torn Galitzia during the First World War and reported on the sufferings of the Jews in that region due to pogroms and persecutions under Russian occupation.

Just decades earlier, the Jews of Galitzia had been granted the rights of emancipation by Austro-Hungarian Emperor, Franz Josef. Anski also helped provide aid for those in need. Tragically, his efforts and those of others who offered assistance fell far short of the enormous needs, given the situation of hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees.

In a Yiddish memoir Anski authored on his war time experiences and the plight of Galitzia’s Jews, “"The Jewish Calamity in Poland, Galitzia, and Bukovina,” he related an event tied to Kiddush Levana that was reported to him by a Jew from the city of Dubnov.

This Jew had arrived at the city of Redzhivilov, only to find that a pogrom was taking place. The Cossacks, rogue troops usually of Ukrainian origin, many times the worst perpetrators of anti-Jewish atrocities, had broken open the doors of the city and proceeded to brutalize the inhabitants. The Jews had locked themselves inside their homes. This Jew, desperately seeking refuge, knocked on doors of homes, but out of fear that it was the dreaded Cossacks, no one answered.

The streets were empty. Suddenly, he saw a figure in the distance. He noticed it was a Jew running. The Jew noticed the man from Dubnov as well, and eagerly approached him, calling out, “Fellow Jew, have pity and come along with me.” He followed wondering what was needed from him. To his surprise, this Jew informed him that he was seeking a Minyan to say Kaddish, for a ‘Yahrzeit’, the anniversary of a death, and he was one man short of the required ten.

After the prayers, he took the visitor outside to recite Kiddush Levana. How could he go outside, thought the visiting Jew, during such a moment of danger? But the man simly said, “Look and see how beautiful the moon is!” The pogroms will continue tomorrow, and it is possible that the moon will not be noticeable.”

How did the Jews withstand the horrors and challenges of the twentieth century and even continue to flourish?

This was a century that would witness the horrors of the First World War, the anti-Semitism that followed, the massacres in the Ukraine in 1919, Stalin’s ruthless persecutions of Soviet Jewry, the rise of Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, the loss of so many Jewish souls to assimilation in the West, the Arab war against Jewish Statehood.

The trials Jewry faced in the last century alone were overwhelming. Yet as the moon "reappears", so too Jewry, in G-d's orbit, survives - and thrives.

In war torn Galitzia, with bands of bloodthirsty Cossacks roving through the city, the men went outside facing a raging pogrom and, unknowingly, a coming century of the unthinkable, and raised their eyes to heaven as they sanctified the moon. [1]


[1] Anski, p. 98