In honor of the Sun’s passage through the sign of Sagittarius ♐ — the archetype of expanding one’s understanding of philosophical and spiritual truths — here is an excerpt from an interesting article entitled “Kabbalah and Astrology” by Rabbi Max Weiman...
What is the Jewish view of astrology?
The Bible takes a strong negative stand on Astrology. Yet, Kabbalah, the ancient Jewish mystical tradition, has sources that are based on astrological principles. Read more...
Some historians say Astrology and Astronomy were originally one discipline. Therefore, it may be that the earliest sages were well versed in both. What made it imperative for Jewish sages to delve into this study were the biblical commandments to celebrate the New Moon, and to chart the Jewish holidays in the proper season. Each month of the Hebrew calendar is one lunar cycle. The holidays are related to the seasons, so the sages had to adjust the calendar because the lunar year is shorter than the solar year. Therefore, the Jewish calendar is neither purely lunar, nor solar. It is a mixture.
In Genesis 1:14 it says, “God said, ‘There shall be lights in the heavenly sky to divide between day and night. They shall serve as omens and define festivals, days and years.” Early commentaries say that “omens” refers to how the stars and planets affect out lives. Therefore, based on the necessity for fixing the Hebrew calendar, and an understanding that stars and planets affect events it is clear that early wise men had an astrological outlook.
A mystical text called “The Chapters of Rabbi Eliezar” that was authored before the common era by a well known Jewish sage, actually outlines the hourly influences of the seven celestial bodies: Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn. Each planet rules a different hour of the day. Each planet rules a day of the week. We still have remnants of this belief in the English names of the days of the week. The Sun rules Sunday. The Moon rules Monday. Saturn rules Saturday.
The Talmud, the Jewish legal compendium, was written over centuries and codified in approximately 500 CE. It mentions of a number of astrological ideas. In one spot it links the influences of the planets to a persons personality. Gaining insight into ones personality has been valued throughout Jewish literature in non-mystical and Kabbalistic thought. The Talmud cautions us, though, not to assume a particular trait can define us precisely. For example, someone born under the influence of Mars will be drawn to bloodshed. Its up to the person, however, to channel that inclination into being a surgeon or butcher, as opposed to becoming a murderer.
The main text of Kabbalistic Astrology is “The Book of Creation” attributed to Abraham (from the Bible). This book outlines the influence not only of the stars but also the constellations familiar to Western Astrology. [In early times, the Jews lived among the people that the historians call the founders of Astrology — the Chaldeans, and later the Babylonians. We may never know whom learned more from whom.] It lists these influences and other correspondences to each of the 12 months of the Hebrew calendar.
For example, Tishrei, the first month of the calendar year, is linked to:
1) the constellation known as Libra 2) the element -Wind 3) the letter of the Hebrew alphabet called Lamed (similar to the English “L”) 4) the gender Male 5) the planet Venus 6) the human function of Marital Relations 7) the quality of Fixation 8) the biblical tribe of Ephraim 9) and the part of the body - Bile.
Through studying the meaning behind the various aspects associated with a particular month, you can define the spiritual potential for you in each time period. The Kabbalists looked to Astrology more to get a general feeling for what a month can offer spiritually rather than to predict what will happen on any given day. They used this knowledge for personal growth.
To predict daily or hourly events would violate a biblical prohibition: “Do not act on the basis of auspicious times” (Leviticus 19:26). Predicting events too precisely leads one away from the understanding that God is involved with every molecule of existence and can alter events at will. This danger appears to be the basis of all biblical injunctions against Astrology. In order for us to have a close ongoing personal relationship with God, we need to keep the perspective that He is involved with every aspect of life. Even though He designed the heavens to have a complex system of influence, He did not set it up and walk away.
The Kabbalists use their understanding of the heavenly influences to see the spiritual potential in each time period, as opposed to predicting the future. They seek the hidden opportunities for elevation, always striving for a closer relationship with God.