Monday, July 27, 2020

Astrology Encyclopedia Judaica

The majority of the talmudic sages believed in the decisive role played by celestial bodies in determining human affairs in the sublunar world. On the one hand the patriarch Abraham and his descendants are spoken of as having been elevated beyond subjection to the stars (Gen. R. 44:12; Yal., Jer. 285), but on the other hand, the blessing bestowed on him in Genesis 24:1 is interpreted as the gift of astrology (Tosef., Kid. 5:17). Astrological consultation is one of the methods suggested by Jethro to Moses for governing the Children of Israel (Mekh., Amalek 2). Several instances are cited of astrologers whose predictions of future events came true (e.g., Shab. 119a). Gentile rulers were considered to have been especially well versed in astrology or to have consulted astrological experts; but knowledge of astrology was also attributed to King Solomon (Eccl. R. 7:23 no. 1). Nevertheless, the rabbis of the Talmud were skeptical of the astrologers' ability to interpret the stars correctly; they conceded the possibility that the astrologers might be able to predict the future by consulting the stars, but claimed that they err in understanding the contents of their forecasts. On the basis of the phrase in Isaiah 8:19, 

 Among the Jewish philosophers of the Middle Ages *Maimonides alone rejected astrology completely, referring to the astrologers' beliefs as vain superstitions unworthy to be called a science. Upon being asked by the rabbis of southern France whether it was possible to combine the theories of astrology with the principles of Judaism, Maimonides replied: "… This science, which is called the decree of the stars … is no science at all, but mere foolery 

 Despite Maimonides' great prestige, his criticism of astrology had practically no influence on subsequent Jewish writers. With the exception of Joseph b. Judah ibn *Aknin and his enthusiastic admirer R. *Jedaiah ha-Penini (Bedersi), none of the Jewish philosophers of the succeeding generations opposed or deprecated astrology. Even the rationalistic *Levi b. Gershom maintained that the activities and events of a man's life were predestined by the positions and movements of celestial bodies. The astrologers fail, he asserted, first of all because of insufficient knowledge about the movements of the stars and the effects of their changed positions on sublunar beings, and secondly, because of the intervention of intellect and free will, "for the intellect and the will are empowered to carry us beyond the limitations imposed by the celestial bodies" (Milḥamot Adonai 2:2). Shem-Tov ibn *Falaquera also considered astrology a true science and made use of it. Many of the great rabbis, commentators, preachers, and ethical teachers dealt with astrology and were favorably disposed toward it; *Abraham b. David of Posquières, in his Hassagot, a commentary on Maimonides' Mishneh Torah; *Naḥmanides (Commentary on Gen. 1:16; Lev. 23:24, and passim) and his pupil Solomon b. Abraham *Adret (Responsa, no. 652); *Baḥya b. Asher (Commentary on Ex. 11:4; and passim); Isaac *Aboab (Menorat ha-Ma'or, 143; passim); Simeon b. Ẓemaḥ *Duran (Magen Avot, 72bff., and Tashbeẓ, no. 513); Isaac *Abrabanel , who cited many proofs "from the science of astronomy in regard to the celestial conjunctions" for his opinion that the redemption of Israel would begin in 1503 and come to completion in 1531 (Ma'yenei ha-Yeshu'ah, 12:2); Isaac *Arama (Akedat Yiẓḥak, 34, 56), though he disapproved of eschatological reckonings based on astrology; Moses b. Ḥayyim *Alshekh ; *Judah Loew b. Bezalel (Maharal) of Prague, who is reputed to have practiced astrology in the company of his friend Tycho Brahe; David *Gans ; Leone of *Modena ; Joseph Solomon *Delmedigo of Candia, Jonathan *Eybeschuetz ; and *Elijah , Gaon of Vilna (Commentary on Sefer Yeẓirah). A definitely negative attitude toward astrology was assumed by Azariah dei *Rossi (Me'or Einayim, 42, 43).

 The Zohar takes astrology for granted and in several places employs imagery and terminology that are clearly astrological (e.g., 3, Ki Teẓe, 281b. Raya Meheimna). It is stated explicitly: "All the stars and constellations in the heavens werePage 620  |  Top of Article appointed to be rulers and commandants over the world… there is not a single blade of grass in the entire world over which a star or a planet does not preside, and over that star one [angel] is appointed who serves in the presence of the Holy One Blessed Be He, each according to his merit" (2:171d; see Mishnat ha-Zohar , Tishbi-Lachower trans. vol. 1, 1957, 486). Astrological reasons for the commandments (mitzvot) are occasionally also given 3:251a–b, Raya Meheimna). On the whole, however, the Zohar's kabbalistic system deprives astrology and astrological beliefs of most of their relevance and importance. In Part 3 (Pinḥas, 216b, Raya Meheimna) it is stated that prior to the giving of the Torah all earthly creatures were dependent on the stars; after the revelation at Sinai, however, God exempted those children of Israel who studied and observed His Law from the rule of the stars, whereas the ignorant and the skeptical "were not absolved from the stars' jurisdictions." In the Tikkunei Zohar and other kabbalistic works the seven planets were

Tanis (29b)R. Papa said: Therefore a Jew who has any litigation with Gentiles should avoid him in Ab because his luck is bad and should make himself available in Adar when his luck is good


  1. ; *Judah Loew b. Bezalel (Maharal) of Prague, who is reputed to have practiced astrology in the company of his friend Tycho Brahe"

    Was the Maharal modern orthodox?

  2. "Despite Maimonides' great prestige, his criticism of astrology had practically no influence on subsequent Jewish writers. "

    The Neviim had similar experiences.

  3. In other words Rambam's view was not accepted and since he wasn't a navi his view was rejected

  4. are you asking sincemost Jews through the ages have accepted astrology does that make them Modern Orthodox?!

    Dont know any Modern Orthodox who practice astrology nor is it part of the YU curriculim

  5. No, Since he was into science and friends with gentile scientist Tycho Brahe - was he modern for his time, or Torah im Derech Eretz.
    Did other Gedolim engage with great scientists of their day, discuss secular matters etc?

  6. His view being rejected doesn't make it wrong. Although, by your way of thinking, it means precisely that!

  7. In the long galus we are in, as one of the chassidic masters said, is a double galus - no guarantee that we are practicing Torah correctly, even if the majority hold a certain view. No navi, no kohen gadol, no Sanhedrin - and when we ask upon whom we can rely, some say kochavim u'mazalot (akum).

  8. It means simply that it is not acceptable to most religious authorities and is basically irrelevant except for someone looking for opinions that have been rejected

  9. science is a relatively recent invention. Chazal dealt with non Jewish scholars and the science medicine etc of their day. So your point is what?

  10. if you think Judaism is totally arbitrary then you have a serious problem!

  11. If you read each point I made, they are individually true.
    We don't have a navi, hence (netziv) astrology became permitted. No urim v'thummim (even in the 2nd temple). And no Sanhedrin.
    Arbitrariness of the heart is described in the Torah. The fact that we are in galus and have no temple shows we are far away from an ideal place.

  12. Chazal, yes. Even R yehuda Hanassi had a friendship with one of the Roman leaders.
    I'm contrasting this openness that once existed to the closedness and self sufficiency of recent times.

  13. What is interesting (to me) is that other rationalists like ibn Ezra, Ralbag , were high level practitioners of astrology and astronomy. Ralbag was even successful in predicting a plague.

  14. Why was he not authorized? Because of his training with a shepherd?

  15. Rambam Halacha is repeated in shulchan Aruch. Can a majority decide against the SA?

  16. where?

    שו"ע יורה דעה - סימן קעט
    (א) אין שואלים בחוזים בכוכבים ולא בגורלות: הגה - משום שנאמר: תמים תהיה עם ה' אלהיך (דברים יח, יג) (ב"י בשם תוספות דע"פ ובשם ספרי). וכ"ש דאסור לשאול בקוסמים ומנחשים ומכשפים (פסקי מהרא"י סי' צ"ו):

    Astrology is prohibited not because it is nonsense as the Rambam claims

  17. he was too much of an expert and saw things others didn't

  18. it is prohibited nonetheless. They differ only on their taamei mitzvot, but halacha is the same in the end.

    Rambam forbids fortune telling for teh same halachic reasons as the Mechaber:

    Yad: 11


    לְעוֹנֵן אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא עָשָׂה מַעֲשֶׂה אֶלָּא הוֹדִיעַ אוֹתָן
    הַכְּזָבִים שֶׁהַכְּסִילִים מְדַמִּין שֶׁהֵן דִּבְרֵי אֱמֶת וְדִבְרֵי
    חֲכָמִים. וְכָל הָעוֹשֶׂה מִפְּנֵי הָאִצְטַגְנִינוּת וְכִוֵּן
    מְלַאכְתּוֹ אוֹ הֲלִיכָתוֹ בְּאוֹתוֹ הָעֵת שֶׁקָּבְעוּ הֹבְרֵי שָׁמַיִם
    הֲרֵי זֶה לוֹקֶה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יט כו) "לֹא
    תְעוֹנֵנוּ". וְכֵן הָאוֹחֵז אֶת הָעֵינַיִם וּמְדַמֶּה בִּפְנֵי הָרוֹאִים
    שֶׁעוֹשֶׂה מַעֲשֵׂה תִּמָּהוֹן וְהוּא לֹא עָשָׂה הֲרֵי זֶה בִּכְלַל
    מְעוֹנֵן וְלוֹקֶה:

    That he rejects its efficacy in scientific terms is an aside.

  19. nope! he is not same as Shulchan Aruch

  20. I see - the Shulchan Aruch rules like nachmanides - there is siman!.

  21. The Gra says Shulchan Auruch is based on an explicit gemora Pesachim 113b) Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said in the name of R. Samuel b. Martha in Rab's name on the authority of it. Jose of Huzal: How do we know that you must not consult astrologers?21 Because it is said: Thou shalt be whole-hearted with the lord thy God\
    Rambam says because it is false. the clear difference is whether the astrologer unasked by you tells you that you are in danger should you act on this information. The Rema says yes and I assume SA would agree since he holds prohibition is only to ask but he doesnt question the validity of information

  22. very interesting - the Taz makes the following comment:

    מותר לחבר שלא יזיקוהו. דאין לך דבר שעומד בפני פיקוח נפש משמע כאן דאם פיקוח נפש תלוי בעבירה שכשעושה עבירה יכול להנצל מותר לו לעשות כן מעצמו עבירה ההיא כמו הכא שעל ידי שעובר על לאו דחובר חבר מציל עצמו:

    Why wouldn't this apply to medical treatment, eg acupuncture? Or is it only certain death, but not plain suffering?

  23. OK - I am beginning to be persuaded on this matter!

  24. What's most impressive about this to me is that Maimonides wasn't merely taking sides in a reigning camp of disagreement at that time. He was the earliest prominent scholar of medieval Europe, Jew or non-Jew, to resoundingly reject astrology as a pseudoscience, stating it emphatically before anyone else did, at a time when it was universally hailed. It was only hundreds of years later that european goyim caught onto this with the first scholarly rejections of astrology appearing in the 1500's before it was eventually universally rejected as a scientific discipline.

    What I recently learned on this topic that I found interesting is that the belief attributed to Rabbi Yonatan, that "Ayn mazel LYisrael" was not a uniquely "Jewish opinion." Rabbi Saul Lieberman wrote of several documented historical sources where foremost Xtian astrologers of that era stated explicitly that Jews were uniquely unaffected by the control of the stars.

    This is quite interesting in light of any discussion of the relevant Talmudic discussion.

  25. Or for someone who according to his own education and understanding, knows that astrology is a falsehood and therefore doesn't hold of it.

  26. There are a number of Torah prohibitions, like lo t'nachashu, lo t-on'nu, tamim tihiyeh etc.
    For Rambam, all these phenomena are false. But we live in a world where strange things happen, coincidences, signs, and even messages coming from unexpected places. So RambaN says that in case you experience one of these phenomena , it's permitted to take heed of them.
    I don't think it means seeing a black cat is a warning.
    Perhaps it is subjective - each person experiences the world differently.

  27. that is a clear misrepresentation of the Ramban's view

  28. Care to elaborate?

  29. This is RambaN on Maimonides. He is clearly forbidding astrology, despite him writing elsewhere that is has effectiveness (Positive commandments omitted by Rambam 8)

    שנצטוינו להיות לבבנו תמים עמו יתעלה והוא שנאמר (דברים י״ח:י״ג) תמים תהיה עם ה' אלהיך, וענין הצוואה הזאת שנייחד לבבנו אליו לבדו יתברך, ושנאמין שהוא לבדו עושה כל והוא היודע אמתת כל עתיד וממנו לבדו נדרוש הבאות מנביאיו או מאנשי חסידיו רוצה לומר אורים ותומים, ולא נדרוש מהוברי שמים ולא מזולתם ולא נבטח שיבאו דבריהם על כל פנים אבל אם נשמע דבר מהם נאמר הכל בידי שמים כי הוא משנה מערכת הכוכבים והמזלות כרצונו מפר אותות בדים וקוסמים יהולל ונאמין שכל הבאות תהיינה אלינו כפי התקרבנו לעבודתו, כענין שהבטיח אל דרך הגוים אל תלמדו ומאותות השמים אל תחתו, ואמרו בפרק בתרא דפסחים (דף קי"ג:) מנין שאין שואלים דבר מן הכלדיים שנאמר תמים תהיה עם ה' אלהיך, והכלדיים הם שארית האומה המתעסקת במלאכת הכוכבים, ולשון ספרי אם עשית כל האמור בענין הרי אתה תם לה' אלהיך, ופירוש זה שאסר הכתוב לשאול העתיד מאוב וידעוני ומתים ומן מעונן וקוסם ואחרי כן צוה שיהיה לבנו תמים עמו באלה ולא נירא מדברי מגיד עתידות מהנזכרים או מזולתם אבל מן נביאיו נדרוש ואליהם נשמע כמו שאומר בפרשה וזהו תרגומו של אונקלוס שלים תהא בדחלתא דה' אלהך וכן אמר הכתוב יהי לבי תמים בחוקיך, והמצוה הזאת נצטוה אברהם אבינו כאשר בא לכרות לו ברית לתת לו זרע אמר התהלך לפני והיה תמים כי מפני שהיה הוא עליו השלום יסוד באמונה והחולק על הכשדים שהיו מייחסים הכחות כלם לשמש ולירח ולכוכבים והוא ראה שיש עליהם יוצר מנהיג צוהו עוד להתהלך לפניו ולהיות תמים עמו ולא יתן בלבו שיהא בזולתו שום אמת ולא יסתכל בענינם כלל עם דעתו שיוצרו מנהיג אותם אלא יהיה לבו אליו לבדו יתעלה כי היא המצוה אותם והמשנה מערכתם כרצונו, כענין שאמרו (שבת דף קנ"ו) צא מאצטגנינות שלך. זהו ענין המצוה הזאת והזכירה בה"ג וכתב להיות תמים, ואולי חשב הרב שהיא צוואה כוללת המצות וללכת בדרכי התורה כענין אשרי תמימי דרך ההולכים בתורת ה' ולכן לא הביא בחשבונו. והמתבאר מדברי רבותינו והנכון כפי מה שכתבנו:

  30. he says it is prohibited because of tamim and cites the gemora in Pesachim dont see anything new!

  31. what is your point?

    Final Halacha is that it is prohibited to use an astrologer to foretell the future.
    Everybody except Rambam accepts the validity of astrological influence.

  32. prohibited unless some information comes your way (shulchan aruch)

    Validity is an academic discussion.

  33. I wish to know what I was misrepresenting.

  34. This is a very comprehensive collection of major opinions, including Shas, RambaN/N SA, Gra Rif etc

  35. The Gra writes:

    ביאור הגר"א יורה דעה סימן קעט
    הרמב"ם וכ"כ בפי' המשנה לפ"ד דעבודת כוכבים אבל כל הבאים אחריו חלקו עליו שהרי הרבה לחשים נאמרו בגמרא והוא נמשך אחר
    הפלוסופיא הארורה ולכן כ' שכשפים ושמות ולחשים ושדים וקמיעות הכל הוא שקר אבל כבר הכו אותן על קדקדו שהרי מצינו הרבה
    מעשיות בגמ' ע"פ שמות וכשפים... והפלסופיא הטתו ברוב לקחה לפרש הגמרא הכל בדרך הלציי ולעקור אותם מפשטן וח"ו איני מאמין בהם
    ולא מהם ולא מהמונם אלא כל הדברים הם כפשטן אלא שיש בהם פנימיות לא פנימיות של בעלי הפלוסופיא שזורקין אותו לאשפה שהם
    חצוניות אלא של בעלי האמת:

    He rejects the "accursed philosophy" of the Rambam, and guides us to the "truth", presumably the Kabbalah.

    Rambam analyzed all the texts written in Arabic on the subject - thousands of books. He arrived at the conclusion that these matters are false, i.e. have no scientific validity. this is not quite the same as "philosophy", which is speculation and argument. Next, there may be effects of these spells , amulets, etc. but these could be psychosomatic, or self fulfilling prophecies. The gemara (i have been told) says that certain things, eg counting in even numbers are efective only for people who believe in them but not for those who don't - which strongly suggests they are psychosomatic.

    The irony of the Gra is that the very "truth" he mentions ended up embroiling him in major disputes with the Chassidim, who took this "truth" to mean things he totally opposed!

  36. you missed what the Gra was referring to hint it wasn't astrology!

  37. I didn't mention that word. I referred to spells (lachashim) and amulets (kemaiot), which feature in the Gra list of occult practices.

  38. so since the discussion has been about astrology why did you mention it? The context would indicate you thought it was relevant to astrology

  39. In order to open a new discussion on spells, kemaiot, and midrashim (literal reading of).


    Acupuncture better than opiates.

  41. a nice article on "demonology"

    the writer seems quite frum, teaches as Yeshivat HaKotel


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