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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

The Half Moon

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

The combined parshiyot of Nitzavim and Vayelech bring us almost to the close of the yearly reading cycle of Torah. In brief, these unforgettable chapters include all of us in the text. We are all present as Moses tells the Hebrews and the many generations to come that we all have choices. Sometimes those choices are very complex, but as the text says, they are not in the sky, nor on the other side of the sea, but close to us.

Over the next few weeks we will be asked and we will all ask ourselves hard questions. Who are we? Have we done good? What do we have to work on? Can we be proud of our actions and interactions? Are there ways we can improve ourselves, our community, our world and even our relationship to God? These are not easy questions to consider and sometimes it is easier to push them to the side. What genius there is to find the time to ponder ourselves and how we can do better. Such is the beauty of Judaism. It invites us to ask hard questions and to try to find answers.

Last week there was a blue moon which graced the evening sky. People all over the world flocked to catch a glimpse at this relatively rare sight and it did not disappoint. Social media was crowded with images of this queen of all moons. A few days later, as my husband and I returned home late in the evening , we caught a glimpse at a half moon in the nighttime sky. It occurred to me that we all look to the sky at the full moon in all of its glory and at the new moon at its most spare, but what about the half moon? Is anyone looking at her? Who is she?

And so this poem was born for the month of Elul, as we approach the month of Tishrei and the new year. It is for all of us, as we look inward and as we look upward.

Although it is but Tuesday, we are heading toward Friday, so I wish you a Shabbat Shalom.



The Half Moon

The half moon hangs low in the Elul sky.

She is

not quite empty


not  quite full;

falling somewhere

at the intersection

of perfect

and imperfect.

She is not as



bursting with blazing drama

as the full moon,

who without embarrassment

monopolizes the early evening sky,

causing waves on the earth below,


the half moon hangs,

suspended in mid air,

as though searching for what will make her


There is no drama in the half moon.

She is not shrouded in mystery as the new moon.

No one is searches for the half moon among the

mountain tops.

No one cries from the peaks

exclaiming that it is a new month

when the half moon rises in the night sky.

The half moon is not as exotic as the crescent moon

who is all points and angles and glamour.

She is simply


an authentic half moon;

making the most of who she is,

shining as brightly as a half moon can



* *

And so it is

with mere mortals

who live so far below the half moon above.

At some points in our lives,

we are full moons,

during our given

moments and days,

hours, weeks and years,

we shine brilliantly,

illuminating those around us.

At other times we are new moons,


hiding until we are discovered,

harboring new beginnings

and the potential of what lies ahead,


most of the time

we are half moons,

knowing that we are not perfect,

not filled with drama,

but neither are we filled with regrets,

for regrets,

as the half moon knows,

only detract from the light that she

seeks to shine.


we just keep on being the very best

half moons that we can be.

Shine on half moon.

This image, called The Blue Waxing Moon, was photographed by the talented photographer, Albert Lew, and kindly shared with me for this post.



by Emeli Sande'


I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life—if you and your offspring would live—

הַעִדֹ֨תִי בָכֶ֣ם הַיּוֹם֮ אֶת־הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם וְאֶת־הָאָ֒רֶץ֒ הַחַיִּ֤ים וְהַמָּ֙וֶת֙ נָתַ֣תִּי לְפָנֶ֔יךָ הַבְּרָכָ֖ה וְהַקְּלָלָ֑ה וּבָֽחַרְתָּ֙ בַּחַיִּ֔ים לְמַ֥עַן תִּֽחְיֶ֖ה אַתָּ֥ה וְזַרְעֶֽךָ׃

Translation from Sefaria



If I reach my hand up.

If I just stretch a little higher.

I believe that





the moon.

Imagine that.


the moon

in my hands.


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