THE LEGACY Of JUDAISM
by Rabbi Joel C. Dobin *)
"In order to understand the relationship between Judaism and astrology, it is necessary to understand that Judaism is not a monolithic, homogeneous religious singularity. It derives its religious philosophy from a primary commitment to understand Scripture. It must be obvious then that such understanding is colored by the place and the era of the individual who is searching for meaning.
Too many non-jews think of Judaism as primarily the biblical reality of the Patriarchs, Moses, David and the Prophets. Indeed, this scriptural reality is the underpinning of all subsequent Judaic thought, and all subsequent Judaic thought must remain true to its direction and thrust. However, the biblical reality ends with Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and the last prophets: after this period, Judaism continued its development through the efforts, the interpretation and the understandings of the rabbis and the courts they administered. Thus the records of this latter period - a period almost as long as the biblical period - may be more instructive of the directions taken by later generations of Jewry. And these directions, in turn, were greatly influenced by the factor of time and place.
Third-century B.C.E. rabbis reacting to the challenges of Hellenism in the Land of Israel reacted differently from first-century C.E. rabbis reacting to the yoke of the Roman Empire in southern Europe, and these reactions were again different from the reactions of rabbis to the anti-semitism of the Crusades in France and Germany. And further: these reactions were different from those of the rabbis blessed enough to live in the height of the Golden Age in the Spain of the twelfth to fourteenth centuries.
Nevertheless, the need in each place and at each time to make sense of scriptural promises and biblical priorities linked together all Jewish thought, especially following the sixth century, during which time the Babylonian Talmud was completed. The Babylonian Talmud - the compiled record of Rabbinic discussion over Scripture and Law and Life which began in the sixth century B.C.E. and continued for 1,200 years! - became the source of all future discussions of law and life for the rabbis and for the people they led. It is still today the paramount source of Jewish law, and upon its broad base has been constructed a body of case law whose extent encompasses fourteen centuries and every continent! Why this introductory emphasis on Talmud? In the first Order of the Talmud (Moed- Festival seasons), in the first Tractate (B'rachot- Blessings) on the reverse side of the 59th page, we find the following three remarkable statements concerning the casting of horoscopes: B. Zufra ben Tuviah said in Rab's name:
"... He who is able to calculate the cycles and the Planetary Courses but does not, one may hold no conversation with him!" Rabbi Shimon ben Pazzi said: "He who knows how to calculate the Cycles and the Planetary courses but does not, of him the Scripture saith: '... but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither have they considered the operation of His Hands!' (Isaiah 5:12)" Rabbi Samuel ben Nachmani said: "How do we know it is one's Duty to calculate the cycles and the Planetary Courses? Because it is written: 'for this is your wisdom and understanding in the sight of the peoples... '(Deuteronomy 4:6). What wisdom and understanding is '...in the sight of the peoples...?' It is the science of the Cycles and the Planets!"The rubric "... one may hold no conversation with him..." is a euphemism for excommunication! Thus the astrologer-rabbi who knows how to cast horoscopes but refuses to do so is subject to the highest punishment the community can inflict. Rabbi Shimon's statement indicates that the one who refuses to cast horoscopes is at the same time refusing to bear witness to the greatness and the glory of God! Finally, Rabbi Samuel's statement indicates that, if one does not know how to cast a horoscope, one must go out and learn the science, for this science links one to God!
In order to understand these statements in the context of the Jewish legacy to astrology, we must now return to the basis of all Jewish commentary, the Scripture. But as we return to the Scripture, we must understand it in its original language and meaning, not in its various mistranslations! For every translation suffers from being both a commentary by the translator, and the evidence of the translator's inability to handle the nuances of the original tongue. The very words which open the Bible are an indication of this difficult problem.
You will find that any new chart will effectively delineate new directions, new concerns, a new person superimposed upon the original. And did not the prophet say "In the place of thy nativity, in the land of thine origin, will I judge thee." (Ezekiel 21:35)? And do we not cast Solar Return charts, judging the native in his or her nativity? And do we not really treat this as a yearly re-creation, a yearly re-birth? And do we not similarly consider the return of Saturn to its natal position and the return of Jupiter to its natal position and the return of Uranus to its natal position (should clients live that long!) as more instances of re-creation? And is this not the true meaning of Karma?
ln regard to the verses which begin Scripture: Have you ever wondered why the order of triplicities is what it is? Why Fire is followed by Earth followed by Air followed by Water? What dictated that order? Let us return to the parenthetical phrase and the creative utterance:
...The Earth being chaotic and empty, with darkness covering the deeps and the Wind of God blowing across the Waters- God said: "Let there be Light !"...
Here is your order of triplicity: a divine order! Earth, Air (Wind), Water, Fire (Light)! But Why start with Earth? An understanding of this process is another of the legacies of Judaism to astrology.
Today, we are living at the end of the Age of Pisces; and the first house cardinal is Aries. Judaism's birth, however, was during the Age of Aries, Earth would occupy the first-house cardinal position! We are now passing into the Age of Aquarius; and Pisces will become the first house cardinal sign! There is great historico-astrological evidence for these eternal linkages.
The age will indicate the promise to be reached. The first house cardinal will indicate the methods and the challenges. During the period of the great Egyptian dynastic civilizations, the age was Taurus, the age whose hallmark was the beauty of massive architecture, and whose worship was of the physical and spirit- forces of the animal world. However, these were manifested through the dualities of the first house cardinal Gemini: the Pharaoh married his sister; the two Egypts ( Upper and Lower Egypt were symbolized by the Pharonic Mitre) had first to be united, and the Nile had to be married to the land for the Taurean results to become manifest.
In the Age of Aries, Israel was born, and the Ram (caught in the thicket by its horns and sacrificed in place of Isaac) became the symbol of salvation. A new faith of fiery adherents and energetic conquest and divine covenant led Israel into its future. and its first house cardinal was Taurus, the symbol of its covenant with the earth, with the land of Israel, with Jerusalem and Zion -- and also the symbol of the eternal challenge that earthiness would present to Israel in its guise of fertility-cult rites, and the seeming success of its detractors in the mundane powers of life.
The age of Pisces brought about the promise of other-worldly salvation, of the fisher of men; and the first house cardinal Aries taught the world about the lamb of God. And the Passover of the Jew, which means to us political freedom, became the sacrifice of the Mass, which to the Christian is freedom from sin and its hold upon a salvational future. Now we are entering the Age of Aquarius, which holds forth its promise of society based upon companionship and understanding. But the Age of Aquarius will be made manifest through the operation of its first house cardinal, Pisces. The mystery of creative relationships among humanities... this will be the key and the guide to how Aquarius is made manifest. The mystical, the relational, and communicative, the intuitive...these will link God, humanity, the universe, into a balanced unity. Once again we have come full circle and are faced with the creativity of the communicative act as the key to the salvational process. Herein lies the mystery of Judaism, and still another legacy to astrology.
Each religion has its unique mystery, and the
religious mystic meditates upon that mystery, tries to master in depths and
through them link into the balance which is called in Judaism lchud, that
is, unity of Man, God and Universe. The mystery in Christianity is
Resurrection, the mystery in Buddhism is Nirvana, in Islam it is Kismet, and in
Judaism it is Creation! The Jewish mystic contemplates the creative,
communicative process called Creation, and through it is linked to the balance
in the universe which includes God and the universe with itself. This
contemplative meditation upon the source and the process of creation leads to
the production of the Kabbalah, which is the philosophical, psychological,
spiritual and astrological account of the meditative, contemplative journey
CreationAlmost all biblical translations render the first three verses of the Bible as three declarative statements in the past tense:
In actuality, this is not the sense conveyed by the Hebrew text! As you read the above translation, you get the picture of a creation in time, a fait accompli, an event that began time and and an event that was completed in the act of beginning time! This is not the force of the Hebrew original. The first word of the Hebrew, translated above as "In the beginning," is B'Reyshith . Although the word Reyshith means "Beginning," the force of the prefix B' is always an indicator of a continuing process and should be translated with the time-sense words such as "while" or "as"or "when. "And likewise, in the Hebrew the first three verses are a unit: the first and last verses being the vital portion of the message, with the middle verse being a parenthetical descriptive phrase. Thus, a much truer rendition of the opening verses of the Bible would be:When God began creating the heavens and the earth -the earth being chaotic and empty, with darkness covering the deeps and the wind of God blowing across the waters -God said: "Let there be light!", and there was light.
Although this may not seem to be much of a change in wording, the change in concept is profound. For in the second understanding of the text, creation is not a completed fact, but rather a process. The process of Creation that God initiated is a continuous one; therefore we can participate in the process, for it is going on around us at every moment. This is reflected in the Jewish prayer-book. Every day the major call to prayer in the morning service insists that God "...in His goodness, re-creates the universe every day...", and the identical call to prayer in the evening service reminds us that "...He causes evening to fall by His word, in wisdom He opens the gates [of the constellations - Ed.] and in His understanding changes times and varies the seasons, and orders the stars in their orbits in the heavens..." Thus in some way - in both the prayer of the Jew and in the sensibilities of the Jew - creation, the heavens, the soul is re-created daily in an ongoing process to which one can relate. You and I are parts of the creative Divine act, and also of the creative process.But what is that creative process? "And God said: Let there be light! And there was light." God said. The act of Creation was an act of communication! God spoke and by speaking, created. "For He spoke and it existed, He commanded and it became." (Psalms 33:9) Therefore, every act of communication is an act of creation! And every act of communication is a divine act! And the Jewish insistence upon a God who daily re-creates the Universe is an insistence upon a God who is daily in communication with humanity. Now we can understand why the three statements concerning the importance of astrologers were made in the section dealing with blessings. For the possibility that God communicates creatively with you and me on a daily basis is indeed the source of our Jewish definition of salvation! And the rabbis of the Talmud indicate that the method most easily available to us to link ourselves to God's daily communication is astrology! For in astrology we see the orderliness of the universe translated into the search for order and for balance in our lives. And is not each new birth a new creation? And is not each new morning a new Ascendant, a new creation? And is not each human interaction, each evidence of the transmission of love - or of hate! - between individuals and groups, a new creation? If it is not, then synastry is meaningless!
The Aquarian Age"Change your position, change your luck." In Hebrew the expression is M'shaneh makom, m'shaneh Mazal-change your position, change your constellation! And when we seek new fields to browse in, new worlds to conquer, or just a vacation to refresh our bodies and our spirits, do we not operate under a new Ascendant in the new location? And is this not a re-birth? a re- creation? And have you noticed how your children, at some point in their lives, will change the spelling of their names or take a new name or use a nickname? Cast a horoscope for that new communication, that new re-birth, the new re-creation!
The Tree of LifeSince creation is an act of communication, the Kabbalah is one of the letters, numbers and words, and is symbolized by the Thirty- two Paths of Wisdom laid out upon the body of Adam Kadmon - Primal Man, in the pattern known as the Tree of Life. This pattern consists of the Ten Sephirot - each representing a cardinal number from 1 through 10- and the Twenty-two Paths among the Ten Sephirot, each representing one of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. However, not only do these twenty-two Paths represent the letters, each Path also represents an astrological indicator: Fire, Air and Water; seven planets; twelve constellations: a sum equal to 22. Furthermore, these letters, planets and constellations are linked to space, time, and man in an orderly pattern. And since each letter of the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical value, every word uttered by man can be reduced to a mathematical equivalent, and through the process known as Gematria, words of equal numerical value serve to link their unique setting with each other, thus interpreting communication in ways which serve to help understand the mysteries of creation. The number 32 is the numerical value of the Hebrew word Lev, the heart, which was seen in ancient times as the seat of all wisdom and feeling. There are also 32 times in the first chapter of Genesis when the word "God" -Elohim - is found. Thus the numbers, letters and words are linked to the Divine process of Creation.
The Hebrew alphabet is divided by the mystics into three groups of letters: three "Mother" letters, seven "double" letters, and twelve "simple" letters. Recalling the demand for balance in Jewish mysticism, and the demand that the order of nature in the universe give witness to the glory of God, we can see in the assignment of letters to paths in the Tree of Life a logical progression. The three "Mother" letters are assigned to path 11,12 and 13. The seven "doubles" are assigned in their order in the alphabet to paths 14 through 20. The twelve "simples" are assigned to the remaining paths 21 through 32 according to their order in the Hebrew alphabet. All is orderly, all follows naturally, and there is no juggling to make things fit preconceived notions as to which letter ought to fit which path!
The mystical idea in Judaism contemplates the idea that God created first the means of communication, letters and numbers, and then used the ideal letters and numbers as they existed in His mind as power tools to create the Universe. "He spoke, and it came into existence..." Thus, each letter came to represent an ideal action in the divine mind, which was then emanated into the universe of matter, informing matter with order, life and intelligence. The process divided itself into three distinct parts, dependent upon the sound of the letters involved.
The three "Mother" letters represent perfect sound: the perfect sibilant Shin, having the sound "sh..." the perfect labial Mem, having the sound "mmmm...."; and the Aleph - silence - also a sound! Silence balanced the two sounds and was found between them, and thus represented as Path 13, Shin being Path 12 and Mem being Path 14. On the Tree of Life, Sephirots 2, 4 and 7 represent the masculine principle, Sephirots 3, 5 and 8 represent the feminine principle, and Sephirots 1, 6, 9 and 10 represent the dynamic and creative balance between them. Thus Path 11 and the Shin represent fire on the masculine side, Path 12 and the Mem represent water on the feminine side, and Path 13 and the Aleph represent air in the balance. Each of these letters represent perfection in the Mind of God, which is then emanated into the universe, time and man. The Mem in the universe becomes the heavens, in time it becomes the hot season, and in man it becomes the head. The Aleph in the universe becomes the atmosphere, in time becomes the temperate season and in man becomes the body. in the Perfect mind of God, the Shin represents perfect guilt, the Mem represents perfect merit, and the Aleph represents the balancing power between them. For a representation of these equivalencies in chart form, see the illustration to the right.
Now that the three
"Mother" letters have emanated both heaven and earth into the universe, all
future universal emanations will be represented in the heaven and the earth
The Three "Mother" Letters
Creative Communicative Act
The seven "double" letters are those Hebrew letters which change their sound when they have a dot placed in them which indicates a hard rather than soft pronunciation. Today only four of the double sounds are known, but the others existed. They represent in the divine mind the perfection of opposites, in the universe they are represented by the planets in the heavens, the primary directions on earth, and in man by those organs of sensation through which one communicates with the universe and gains one's salvation! The Bet represents wisdom-folly, and is emanated in the Heavens as the sun, on earth as "up," in time as sunday and in man as the right eye. Once again, let us make a corresponding chart to illustrate:
Chart A: The Seven "Double" Letters
The twelve "simple" letters are those which do not change their sound, whether or not a dot is found in them for grammatical reasons. They represent perfect human conditions in the divine mind, and are likewise emanated into universe, time and man. For instance, the Hey represents perfection in sight; Aries in the heavens and Northeast on earth; the Hebrew month of Nisan (March 21 -April 19) in time, and the right hand in man. Another chart will illustrate the balance of the letters:
Chart B: The Twelve "Simple" Letters
These charts and the mystical concepts they represent cannot be used in a mechanical way. They were developed for use in this article to illustrate the integral position astrology has in the mystical contemplative world of the Kabbalah. These charts are not cookbooks, but rather they are meditative guides! And they illustrate the centrality of the concept of creative communication within Judaism. For within the contemplative life of the Jewish mystic, it is recognized that the influence of astrology is of paramount importance. When the body is ensouled, the soul travels the Thirty-two Paths of Wisdom, down the Tree of Life, having impressed upon it the immediacy of the astrological influences of the moment to impart those moderating influences upon the human entity being created.
And as that human being continues through life, the moderating influences of the planetary transits continue to communicate the will of God to that person. The astrologer acts, in the finest and most profoundly mystical sense, as the interpreter of the divine transmission. And because the astrologer acts as interpreter, the astrologer acts as communicator, and thus is inexorably involved in a creative process, in a divine process. Thus, the astrologer must continually keep in mind that the words issuing from the lips and the tongue have the power to destroy as well as to create, to harm as well as to heal.
The story is told of the Talmudic rabbi who sent his servant to the marketplace to purchase the best and the worst piece of meat. The servant returned with a tongue! For the tongue is a double-edged sword that can cut to the soul of the individual to save or to destroy! Thus the concluding prayer of the 18 Benedictions, repeated thrice daily in Jewish worship, begins with the words: "0 my God, guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking falsehood...." For once a word is spoken, its vibrational pattern is fixed into the pattern of the universe, and cannot be recalled.
The astrologer, as the interpreter of the divine will and the divine pattern for humanity, as the witness to divine order and purpose in the universe, as transmitter of divine love to His creation, has an awesome responsibility, and an uplifting, enlightening, joyous and keenly helpful profession! The link to the divine, to the creative experience, to the creative communicative act, to the interpretation of the divine will to humanity: this is the Jewish legacy to astrology."
*) This guide was previously published in Astrology Now, Vol 3, No.6. Thanks to Editor Noel Tyl.
volker doormann - 2003.10.04