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Jewish Astrology?

by Rabbi Moshe Wisnefsky

  

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Sefer Yetzirah, one of the first Jewish books ever written, reveals the secrets of Jewish astrology. Throughout the Bible, Talmud and Code of Jewish Law there are fascinating descriptions of how G-d channels His life force into our world through heavenly bodies. At the same time, when one is connected to the Torah and observes its commandments, he or she is directly plugged into the Supernatural, surpassing the influences of astrological forces.

Jacob’s sons, who became the 12 tribes of Israel, are actually 12 different soul roots from which the Jewish people descend. These roots correspond with the 12 signs of the zodiac, the 12 Jewish months, 12 of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet and 12 attributes of the soul, such as sight, anger, speech and thought.

We have the ability to better ourselves at any time, but the Kabbalah delineates certain times that are more auspicious to work on certain attributes. For example, Jewish holidays do not only commemorate historical events, but are the result of heavenly forces and energies. In the month of Nissan, when we celebrate Passover, the attribute of speech is at its height—giving us the added strength to refine our attribute of communication.

According to the astrological chart, the month in which you are born indicates a hidden strength you can develop, or a weakness you can overcome; however, you are not locked into the "personality" of your month. Each of us is infused with these strengths and weaknesses. We can refine them, one by one, during the cycle of the Jewish year, as we strive for a life where the physical, mental and emotional are integrated into the spiritual.

Aries (Nissan)

This first month of the Jewish zodiac is governed by the letter hei (h), the breath of speech, from which all other sounds evolve. Human beings are distinguished from other creatures by their power of speech, their ability to communicate their inner thoughts to others. Thus, “correct talking” is the beginning of spiritual growth. The celebration of this month is Passover. During the Passover meal we employ our power of speech for its highest purpose: to communicate to our children (and the child within us) the experience of G-d’s miraculous presence in our lives and our history. The tribe of this month is Yehudah, the royal leader, from which Jewish monarchs descend. The Passover sacrifice in the Temple was a lamb, which reflects the sign Aries.

Taurus (Iyar)

Iyar is the month between our yearly rebirth in Nissan and our new maturity—which we achieve by receiving the Torah—in Sivan. Accordingly, the letter of this month, vav (v), represents the straight line of truth. The sign of Taurus, the bull, signifies the individuality and stubborn devotion to this truth, the prerequisite for maturation. Iyar is thus the month of “correct thought,” the attribute on which we focus in preparation for receiving the Torah. The tribe of this month, Yissachar, excelled in their loving devotion to the study of the Torah.

Gemini (Sivan)

This is the month of “correct movement,” of learning how to walk in the ways of the Torah that we receive anew on the holiday of Shavuot. The Torah is our weapon against evil; this month is governed by the letter zayin (z), which means “weapon.” Walking in the ways of the Torah is epitomized by this month's tribe of Zevulun, the seafaring business people of Israel who supported the tribe Yissachar in their Torah study. These two brothers had different careers but worked together, symbolized by the astrological sign of Gemini, the twins. The concept of twins also evokes the image of the two tablets at Mt. Sinai and the coupling of G-d and the Jewish people through the Torah.


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COMMENTS

Kosher Astrology

Posted by: Evelyn Goodman, Los Angeles, CA on May 22, 2005

If indeed astrology is "kosher" why do Jewish teachings and Judaism seem to be so adverse to it's teachings? This is the first I'm hearing regarding the Torah's suppport of Astrological teachings.

I am simply amazed

Editor's Comment

Rabbi Wisnefsky responds:

It's all a matter of semantics. Judaism is in general opposed to "astrology" because the practice that goes by that name today is a corruption of the original astrology as taught in the Torah. Today's astrology definitely falls under the prohibition of "None of you shall be...soothsayers...for all these are an abomination to G-d, and because of these abominations G-d is expelling [the nations that practice them] before you. Rather, you should be ingenuous with G-d, your G-d" (Deuteronomy 18:10-13). Rashi explains the word "ingenuous" ("tamim") as follows: "Relate to Him simply, depend on Him, do not try to second-guess the future. Rather, receive whatever happens to you wholesomely; then you will be with Him and one of His." An excellent book describing which practices are permitted and which forbidden by the Torah is "Faith and Folly" by Rabbi Yaakov Hillel (published by Yeshivat Hevrat Ahavat Shalom, Jerusalem 1990, distributed by Feldheim).

The point of Jewish astrology is not to predict the future or suggest behavior based on the signs of heaven. Judaism teaches us that if we are connected to the Torah, which is above nature, we need not concern ourselves with the forces of nature such as the influence of the zodiac.

Rather, the purpose of Jewish astrology is to help us understand ourselves and give us direction on how to work on ourselves.

Whereas today's astrology seems to be oriented toward ascertaining the forces operating in the world in order to figure out how to get around them or capitalize on them, i.e., to work with or around the forces in the world for our benefit -- and thereby make it less necessary or wholly unnecessary to obtain Divine favor by good behavior and following His will, Jewish astrology seeks to understand the energies G-d put in the world in order to utilize these to *better* do His will, as a way of understanding ourselves and the gifts G-d put at our disposal to develop ourselves, mature, and grow spiritually, all the intent to cling to Him and do His will more joyfully, fully, etc.

Jewish "Astrology"

Posted by: Anonymous, Providence, RI on Aug 08, 2005

B"H

Evelyn, Judaism has always recognised auspicious times for different qualities and events. I think that while Moshe is relating this to "astrology", it has nothing at all to do with "astrology". We are expressly forbidden to engage in astrology (Greco-Roman at that). Jewish months have *nothing* to do with the positions of constellations and planets. The Gregorian calendar can be related to astrological "sun signs", as it is based on the rotation of the Earth around the Sun. The Jewish calendar is based on the Moon's rotation around the Earth with leap years to keep the three festivals in the correct seasons (which is a solar quality).

Kabbalistically, we know that certain times are connected with different qualities. For example, the three weeks leading up to Tisha B'Av, especially Av 1 to Av 9, is a bad time for Jews to travel, have surgery, make life decisions, etc. On the other hand, Adar is the best time for a Jew to make himself available in a legal battle with a Non-Jew.

Editor's Comment

It is true that the Jewish calendar is primarily a lunar calendar, but Judaism also follows the seasons, which are governed by the solar calendar (hence the occasional added month in the Jewish leap year). Furthermore, Maimonidies (in his laws of Kidush Hachodesh) actually uses the zodiac in reference to the lunar calendar. The zodiac is also mentioned in the Talmud (Brachot 32b) the Midrash (Esther Rabba 7:11).

Kabbalistic Astrology

Posted by: Anonymous on Sep 07, 2005

Astrology of predicting the future is prohibited to the Jew, but the Zodiac that the sefer Yetzirah speaks about is the inclininations, weaknesses and strengths of a person that is born in a certain month, which IS related to the planets.

Clarification

Posted by: Ben, Nashville, TN, USA on Sep 29, 2005

I have a question. I do not practice astrology, but I just did a few minutes of research and found there are several types.

There is Eastern, Vedic, Western, Horary, Mundane and Natal, etc. All with very different schools of thought.

What type of astrology would the Torah align with? Which is the most orthodox?

Editor's Comment

Rabbi Wisnefsky responds:

I'm not familiar with any of these, but I would wager that the Torah would not align with any of them, inasmuch as every type of astrological practice I've ever heard of is a corruption of the Torah's system. Like many (if not all) other spiritual practices and religions, astrology in its various forms as known today originated thousands of years ago with the knowledge G-d gave to the ancients (perhaps to Adam, or if not, to Abraham) and which became perverted when people's approach to spirituality shifted from "how can I get close to G-d" to "how can I get what I want from G-d" or "how can I access supernatural powers without having to commit myself to a G-dly lifestyle."

What about Levi?

Posted by: Anonymous on Dec 11, 2005

I was wondering why the tribe of Levi is not included. Could you explain please?

Editor's Comment

Due to the exalted nature of the tribe of Levi, they are often not included together with the other tribes -- they are an elite group unto themselves. Instead of Levi (and Joseph), Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, are counted as tribes.

books

Posted by: Anonymous on Nov 11, 2006

Is there a good book I could buy to read more about Jewish astrology that would not be prohibited for me to study from, since it is a Kabbailistic teaching and I am a woman? Thanks.

Editor's Comment

Why don't you try "Above the Zodiac" by Matityahu Glazerson (http://www.amazon.com/Above-Zodiac-Astrology-Jewish-Thought/dp/1568219350).

Astrology

Posted by: x ben x on Nov 23, 2006

Real astrology isn't peering into a crystal ball to see the future. In fact, seeing the future can be dangerous, as it can (when done with magic) make the tikkun process more difficult.

The problem is that in day to day speech, we rarely note a difference between false astrology, such as those columns in newspapers, etc., and true astrology, the goal of which is to help to show us areas of ourselves which we need to correct.

Shana Tova,

Miracles and Wonders


RELATED CATEGORIES

Miscellaneous » The Jewish Calendar
Torah » Kabbalah » Kabbalistic Concepts

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Passover
A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Shevat
The eleventh month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to January-February.
Tishrei
The seventh month of the Jewish calendar. This month, which arrives in early autumn, has more holidays than any other month: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah.
Purim
A one-day holiday celebrated in late winter commemorating the miraculous deliverance of the Jewish people from a decree of annihilation issued by Persian King Ahasuerus in the year 356 BCE.
Chanukah
An eight day mid-winter holiday marking: 1) The miraculous defeat of the mighty Syrian-Greek armies by the undermanned Maccabis in the year 140 BCE. 2) Upon their victory, the oil in the Menorah, sufficient fuel for one night only, burned for eight days and nights.
Kabbalah
Jewish mysticism. The word Kaballah means "reception," for we cannot physically perceive the Divine, we merely study the mystical truths which were transmitted to us by G-d Himself through His righteous servants.
Adar
The twelfth month on the Jewish calendar. This month (which falls out approx. February-March), is the most joyous month on the calendar due to the holiday of Purim which is on the 14th and 15th of this month.
Nissan
The first month of the Jewish calendar. This month, which falls out in early spring, is known for the holiday of Passover which starts on the 15th of Nissan.
Tevet
The tenth month on the Jewish calendar. Falls out in mid-winter.
Shavuot
Early summer festival marking the day when the Jews received the Torah at Mount Sinai in the year 2448 (1312 BCE).
Iyar
The second month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to April-May. The 18th of this month is the holiday of Lag b'Omer.
Sivan
The third month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to May-June. This month features the holiday of Shavuot.
Kislev
The ninth month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to November-December. The holiday of Chanukah starts on the 25th of this month.
Elul
The 6th month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to August-September. This is the month which precedes Tishrei, the month of the High Holidays, and is a month of introspection and repentance.
Cheshvan
The eighth month of the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to October-November.
Av
The fifth month of the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to July-August. The saddest month of the year due to the destruction of the Temples, and the many other tragedies which befell the Jews in this month.
Tammuz
The fourth month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to June-July.
Jacob
Third of the three Patriarchs and father of the Twelve Tribes. Lived most his life in Canaan and died in Egypt in 1505 BCE. Also known by the name of "Israel."
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
Tzadik
(fem. Tzidkanit; pl. Tzadikim). A saint, or righteous person.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.