By Bentzion Meltzer

The Ram"a (Rabbi Moshe Isseles, in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim, 664:1) comments that if one can see one’s shadow by the light of the moon on the evening of Hashanah Raba, it is a clear sign that one’s teshuvah has been accepted by the Al-mighty.

However, he cautions, if one cannot see one’s shadow, then…look out!

...nowadays, we have to be very careful about actively seeking out this kind of sign from on High...

He goes on to say that nowadays, we have to be very careful about actively seeking out this kind of sign from on High because people today no longer have the understanding to interpret what they will see correctly. So, it is better not to look for one’s shadow on the evening of Hashanah Raba, he concludes.

The question remains, however, why does the seeing of a shadow, albeit from the Moon on this auspicious evening, have anything to do with the acceptance of one’s teshuvah that one has been preparing for during the month of Elul and then praying hard for its acceptance all during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?

The answer, I propose, can be found in allegory.

Just as one cannot look directly at the sun for fear of ruining one’s eyesight, and can only directly see a reflection of the sun’s radiance by observing the Moon, which gives forth no light of its own, but shines via the reflective light from the Sun, so too is man not able to look upon the Infinite Divine Light and live. We can only see a reflection, a contraction, the "back" part of G‑d’s manifested Presence and still be allowed to live.

Moses, the greatest prophet ever, when he asked to see G‑d’s face was told, ‘No, let Me cover you with My hand as I pass, for no man shall look upon Me and live, but I will allow you to see My back’. (Ex. 33:18-21)

...we are only allowed to see the ‘back’ of the Divine Presence...

So too, we are only allowed to see the ‘back’ of the Divine Presence via reflective light as it shines from the Moon. The reflected light of the holy Divine Presence shines on us and casts a shadow which when we see it, we know that it exists only because of the reflection of G‑dliness that is illuminating us. And we are glad to bask in the reflected light and we know that G‑d loves us and has accepted our prayer and teshuvah.

Because He shows us our shadow.

When we look at our shadow, which is precisely us in all of our details, we are seeing ourselves as others see us. And because we see ourselves as others see us as illuminated by the blessed Ein Sof, we know that our fellow man has accepted our teshuvah as well.

On this Hashanah Raba, may you all be sealed in the Books of All Good Things.

Most of all, I wish for us all that the Al-mighty strengthen our faith so that all that happens to us will be seen as being done for us, for our benefit; and that whatever befalls us will be seen as absolutely, positively the best thing that could possibly happen!


[Bentzion Meltzer, founder of The Baal Shem Tov Institute, is dedicated to spreading the teachings of the Besht through the internet (, email and all the social media.]