Sometimes we delve into our sacred literature and a word, verse or story enthralls us. This is how I felt today when our congregation’s Bible class came to Joshua’s bold command to the sun: “Stand still, O sun, at Gibeon!” (Joshua 10:13).
But the Hebrew verb in this verse is not usually understood as “stand still.” Rather וַיִּדֹּם הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ can be understood as “Keep silent!” Why would Joshua call for the sun’s silence? After all, he was in the midst of battle and his goal was more daylight.
Our Sages suggested that the sun’s voice and its movement are connected. The sun, they taught, sings G-d’s praises as it traverses the sky, and when it stops singing, it stops moving. The sun, merely by doing what it is meant to do, sings out to God with a solar whir of praises. Its rising is a prayer and its setting is a prayer. Its illuminating is a prayer and its warming is a prayer. The sun prays by its very existence.
The Sages did not know that it is we who orbit the sun, not the other way around. But the lesson resides in their deeper message, which is that our very existence can also be a prayer-song. Our whir of activity, the way we function at our most basic level – the way we walk and talk, the way we work and love – all of it ought to be a praise to God and praiseworthy in others’ eyes.
This can be a strenuous practice. There are so many other concerns and desires that distract our eyes and absorb our energy. But we try, like King David, who sang, “I have set the Eternal before me always” (Ps. 16:8).
Friends, we ought to follow the sun. Its existence is a song to God, and ours can be as well. Not an easy task, but we may as well aim high.
Rabbi Jeffrey Weill