The moon and the sun were created equal, but the moon was jealous and complained that the heavens and earth could not have two luminaries of equal size. Because of this, as well as the fact that the moon had unlawfully intruded into the sphere of the sun (i.e. the moon is sometimes visible by day), the moon was diminished. G‑d then appeased the moon by surrounding it with stars, like a viceroy is encircled by his assistants. (Bereishit Rabba 6:3, 4; Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer 6)

And the enlightened will shine in the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn the many to righteousness will be like stars forever. (Daniel 12:3)

Periods when the Jewish people are on a low level spiritually can be seen as times of the 'incomplete moon'….

After full moon, the moon begins waning and diminishes to the point where it becomes invisible. After the old moon has disappeared, the slender crescent of the new moon becomes visible and the moon begins to wax. Prior to the fixing of the Jewish calendar by Rabbi Hillel II in 4119 (358-9 C.E.), a new month was only deemed to have begun after the Rabbinical Court had declared it "sanctified". The Rabbinical Court could only do so on the testimony of two reliable witnesses who had seen the new moon itself (Rosh Hashanah 24). Today we give thanks for the reappearance of the moon in the ceremony of Kiddush Levanah, the Sanctification of the Moon, which is recited on seeing a clear moon between the third day of its appearance and the fifteenth of the month (Orach Chaim 426:1-3). The Sages say, "Whoever pronounces the benediction of the new moon in its due time welcomes, as it were, the presence of the Shechinah. (Sanhedrin 42a; Sofrim 20:1)

Periods when the Jewish people are on a low level spiritually can be seen as times of the "incomplete moon", a time when the moon stands accused. The incomplete moon is the source of all sins and blemishes (Chullin 60). But when a Jew arouses himself and finds his good points, thereby returning to G‑d, this is the "restoration of the moon" from its blemish. It is then that the "sanctification of the moon" takes place.

At the beginning of the month, when we look for the moon in order to sanctify it, the moon is very small and fine - a mere point. This is the good point which is "black but comely".

When the moon reaches its ultimate diminution at the end of the month, it is then necessary for the entire Jewish people to search for it, until two witnesses are found who testify to having seen a small point of the new moon. The Rabbinical Court then proclaims the New Month, and the moon is thereby "restored". This parallels the way in which the good point which we succeed in finding in ourselves, no matter how infinitesimally small it may be, brings us from the scale of guilt to the scale of merit.

After receiving testimony from the witnesses who had seen the moon, the Beit Din and then all the people proclaimed: "Sanctified, Sanctified". (Rosh HaShanah 24a)

We become sanctified through judging ourselves and others favorably….

Similarly, by finding merely a small good point, we become sanctified through judging ourselves and others favorably. The moon had become diminished because of its complaint. It is again words - the proclamation of "Sanctified, Sanctified" - which now elevate the moon from its blemish. The Sanctification of the Moon depends upon the single point of light which was seen.

After its diminution, G‑d gave the moon the stars as a consolation. The stars themselves allude to the good points found in all Jews, through which they enter the scale of merit by being judged favorably. It is written, "Those who turn the many to righteousness will be like the stars forever". (Daniel 12:3)

"Those who turn the many to righteousness…" are the righteous of each generation, who judge all favorably. Through this, even the sinners enter the scale of merit. "…Like the stars forever" - because the stars are the good points. Later on in the same passage it is written: "Many will be purified, whitened and refined, while the wicked will do wickedly and not understand" - (Ibid. 12:10). It will be then that the "enlightened will shine…and those who turn the many to righteousness will be like the stars forever." The reference is to the age of the Mashiach, at the End of Days, when the forces of evil will attack very powerfully, as we find in the statements of the Sages. At that time, a great process of selection and refinement will take place. "Many will be purified, whitened and refined.

The stars…serve to rectify the blemishes of the moon….

The main rectification will then be brought about by turning many to righteousness. The most important spiritual work of the righteous (tzadikim) will be to judge everyone favorably, finding the good points of even the very lowly. It will be through this that the Final Redemption will take place with the coming of Mashiach.

The Psalmist says, "Praise Him, all you stars of light". (Psalms 148:3) It is through the good points - the light-giving stars - that we are able to give thanks and praise to G‑d. "I shall sing to my G‑d with the little bit I have left." This explains why it was that the moon was given the stars as a consolation. The stars - the good points - serve to rectify the blemishes of the moon.

This is why the very first commandment given to the Jewish nation was the Sanctification of the Moon. Sighting even the smallest portion of the new moon - a modicum of good - is sufficient for proclaiming the new month. Finding the modicum of good is what brought about the Egyptian redemption. And in the future this will be the essence of the Final Redemption, when Israel's exiled will be gathered in from the nations of the world.

[From "Azamra!"; reprinted with permission from the Breslov Research Institute]