The Moon is Like a Boy
and the Sun is Like a Girl 

Anonymous / Jewish Retold by Maia Zelkha

And God created the two great luminaries… the great light… and the small light.

—Genesis 1:16 

Originally, the sun and moon were created of equal size, but the moon protested, and so God made it smaller.

—Midrash Rabbah

But He gave it the stars of heaven to mollify it.

In the Hebrew language, the moon is like a boy and the sun is like a girl. Many people have asked about the origins of this strange linguistic development, and there have been many theories in the field of glossology that have tried to answer this question. Some experts say it has to do with a cultural inheritance from Hebrew’s distant past, but I find here a tragic love story that was revealed to me in a dream to be more convincing.

Around 6,000 years ago, on the fourth day of creation, the sun and the moon were created. The sky broke and the darkness wept for God’s light. In the beginning, the sun and the moon were together as one form. They sang each other songs and walked together in circles around the stars. They blushed with gold and silver. They loved each other so much that they disrupted the order of nature; they shone so brightly that the boundary between light and darkness began to blur. God saw what was happening, and He sent them millions of miles away from each other.

The sun and the moon were devastated. To give you an idea, the gematria1 of “sun” (שמש) is 640, and the gematria of “moon” (ירח) is 218. Together they add up to 858. The number 858 is also the gematria of the phrase, את האחת ויחידה, meaning “You are the one and only.” Even God thought that this was the most devastating thing to happen since the universe’s creation. 

The moon wept so hard that he was drained of light. He became so empty that he disappeared in the sky’s darkness. This created a heavenly crisis— again, God intervened. “Moon,” He said, “Let’s go for a walk.” And so, the two walked together through the stars. God’s heart was heavy with mercy, and He placed the moon a little bit closer to the sun; far enough so that he couldn’t see her, but close enough that he could feel her warmth. Again, he began to fill with light.

God asked the sun to move around the earth to keep her distance from the moon. She obeyed— she knew her love for the moon would cause only chaos in the universe. And so the moon continued to follow her, always trailing far behind. When he moved closer to her, his light grew, and when he fell behind, his light dimmed. In Hebrew, the root of the word moon is רח,, which is the same root of the word ארח, which means path. And so the moon began living to follow the path of his beloved, the sun.

When the sun was pulled away from the moon, she was silent and burning. And as the plants and animals grew on earth, she nourished them with her grief, warm and tender. It’s only when this happened that the sun became a mother to the world in her grief for her beloved, the moon. In Hebrew, the gematria of “mother to the world” (אמא לעולם) is the number 218, the same gematria as the moon. 

In the Hebrew language, the moon is like a boy and the sun is like a girl. It’s not a happy story, but every day and night children can look into the sky and see their glowing love. It’s been many years since the sun and moon have seen each other, and they miss each other terribly. But to this day, the moon still lives for the sun’s warmth, and the sun still nourishes life out of longing for the moon. ◆

1 Gematria is the practice of assigning a numerical value to a name, word, or phrase according to an alphanumerical cipher. Hebrew alphanumeric ciphers were probably used in biblical times, and were later adopted by other cultures.

—The Editors