Thursday, October 28, 2004

Wonders Of Our World (or There's A Blood Moon In The Sky And Hobbits Are Real!)

Sharing the stage last night with (what would turn out to be) the final game of the World Series (congrats to the Red Sox) was a total eclipse of the moon that was magnificently visible from my home in Miami Beach. The night seemed tailor-made for the event; though there were some clouds, they did not spoil the spectacle, and the high pressure we have over Florida made the sky crisp and clear for stargazing.

I have seen a few lunar eclipses (partial and full) over the years, but they never stop amazing me; there is a sense of sheer wonder and mystery at seeing the moon slowly dissapear behind a curtain of blackness, only to reappear as a blood-colored orb hanging majestically and ominously in the firmament. Today we have scientists that can explain to us in painstaking detail how the process occurs, what causes the red coloration, when it will pass down to the minute, but my thoughts always go to the peoples of the past, wondering how they saw and understood this same celestial event, what did they associate with an eclipse, how did it affect their life. Sadly, in our day and age, a full lunar eclipse is something that passes as a footnote in the evening news, that gets a few cutaway shots during the baseball game and becomes forgotten in the midst of the electoral process. But there was a time when such an event would have changed destinies, carried meaning, be the talk of the town for months or years to come.

The moon still holds a very special place to Jews. We measure our calendar by the moon, not the sun, and every new month we recite a special blessing on the moon. Our sages say that the Jewish people are compared to the moon: our fortunes wax and wane, but they are constant, always in a state of renewal. A full lunar eclipse could be understood as a representation of the times when we have been almost obscured from the world (such as the Inquisition or Holocaust, though I think the current period of exile would be a more appropiate symbol); the blood-red of the moon would need no further explanation, I would think. But just as the moon eventually went through a period of darkness giving way to the brilliance of a full moon, so will our destiny follow, when the exile ends in the Messianic times.

And in other "Wonders of our World" news, today the New York Times ran a story on an apparently new species of human found in an island east of Bali, off the coast of Australia. It seems Tolkien was not that far off and that Hobbits were real! Check out the first two paragraphs from the article:

Once upon a time, but not so long ago, on a tropical island midway between Asia and Australia, there lived a race of little people, whose adults stood just three and a half feet high. Despite their stature, they were mighty hunters. They made stone tools with which they speared giant rats, clubbed sleeping dragons and hunted the packs of pygmy elephants that roamed their lost world.

Strangest of all, this is no fable. Skeletons of these miniature people have been excavated from a limestone cave on Flores, an island 370 miles east of Bali, by a team of Australian and Indonesian archaeologists. Reporting their find in today's issue of Nature, they assign the people to a new human species, Homo floresiensis.

You can check out the full article at (registration required and free) entitled "New Species Revealed: Tiny Cousins of Humans" and a related article on the same topic from entitled "Scientists Hope to Find More Tiny Indonesia Hominids."

For the respectable scientific source, you can check out the article ""Hobbit" Discovered: Tiny Human Ancestor Found in Asia" at (this one's also sure to remain archived, unlike the other two, which could be removed after a while).

There is so much about our world we still do not know. Things like lunar eclipses and discoveries of hitherto unknown human variants happen and it's like God is playing with us saying, "Keep digging, there's a lot more for you to find out."

And some people still insist on denying the existence of God...

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