Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Moshe Rabbeinu's Birth and Demise Seen in the Stars?

Rashi (Shemos 1:22) mentions that the Egyptian astrologers recognized the day which Moshe Rabbeinu was born as the day of the birth of the Jewish savior. They were, apparently, also able to see that he would eventually have some failure associated with water (this actually took place with the event when Moshe Rabbeinu hit the rock in Parsha Chukas). Therefore, Paroh decreed that all boys born that day, even Egyptian, must be killed by being thrown into the river.

When looking back to the year of Moshe Rabbeinu's birth (1392 B.C.E.) and the day on which he was born 7 Adar, one can, perhaps, see a little bit of what these astrologers saw. Saturn was entering into the constellation Pisces. Saturn is considered to be the planetary influence of the Jewish people (Ibn Ezra's Reishis Chachma). Pisces is considered to be the constellation that influences the Jewish people's houses of worship (Ibn Ezra's Reishis Chachma), and is associated with water as it is depicted as fish. While entering, Saturn could be viewed as the sign of the Jews finally finding its place of success, in the shul.

Interestingly, on the eighth day after his birth (his bris) Venus came extremely close to Saturn. Venus is associated with fertility (Ibn Ezra's Reishis Chachma) and at the bris is when the male child is considered completed. This celestial spectacle would been seen as the growth and development of this new savior. It also would have been easily predicted in advance by the Egyptian astrologers.

Even though, as mentioned by Rashi, the Egyptians did not know whether this savior was Jewish or not, since the eight day has significance to the Jewish people as being this day of completion, its occurrence would not have been discounted. So, perhaps, the Egyptian astrologers saw the entering into Pisces and deduced that the birth of the savior was possible, but they still could have thought that this was not indicative of the birth certainly occurring. Saturn is the slowesr moving naked eye planet, but it still makes a complete circle around the night sky over a thirty to forty year period. Maybe thirty to forty years later would signify the birth when Saturn would return to this position. However, once they saw that Venus would be touching it eight days later, they knew that this had to be the time of the actual birth.

How did they deduce that Moshe Rabbeinu would experience failure with water? Perhaps, they had seen a couple months earlier, when Moshe Rabbeinu was developing as a fetus, that Mars touched Saturn while in the constellation Aquarius. Mars does not come this close to Saturn on a regular basis. It can be centuries in between events like this from any given location. Mars, associated with death and blood (Ibn Ezra's Reishis Chachma) would be seen as affecting Saturn and, interestingly, it was occurring in the constellation Aquarius, the Water Carrier. Aquarius is seen as a man pouring out water from a bucket. The obvious connection would be to assume that the savior of the Jews, expressed by Saturn, would meet his demise, as seen with Mars, in the context of water, Aquarius.

(It is also of note that in the Midrash Rabbah, Rashi's source, the Midrash states that the astrologers made this prediction when Yocheved was pregnant with Moshe Rabbeinu. That seems consistent with this supposition because they would have begun making their predictions from that point and would use the future calculated events to continue their theories. Therefore, the Midrash and Rashi, if my theory is correct, are both accurate).

Perhaps, the most fascinating aspect of this entire theory is how it came to fruition. We know that Moshe Rabbeinu passed away 120 years later and it was punishment for hitting the rock (which brought forth water and showed the accuracy of the Egyptian prediction) that denied his entry into Eretz Yisrael. That year, and that day of his death, Saturn was in the same place as it was on the day of his birth; a place of water. Interestingly (although I don't know exactly what to make of the following), on day thirty of his passing, the last day that Klal Yisrael mourned Moshe Rabbeinu, Mars, Venus and Mercury all came extremely close (within a few degrees) of Saturn. This is an unusually rare event!!! Since I am not an astrologer, nor do I pretend to understand or study astrology (I have learned through some sifrei rishonim about it in order to understand some other ideas, such as astronomy, that they espoused), I don't know exactly what the significance of this event is, but I can tell you that any self respecting astrologer in those days would have seen it as a truly astronomical event.


Anonymous said...

It was nice to see you last week, Ari. Good luck with the new book!

Ari S. said...

Thanks, keep in touch. While commenting, I may as well update this post. The following Rosh Chodesh (Nisan) there was a solar eclipse. This seems to be very apropos for this moment in time. The Gemara tells us that this is a bad sign for the other nations (Sukkah 29a). It is a display of the moon, symbolic of Klal Yisrael (Midrash Tehillim 22), blocking out the light of the sun, symbolic of the other nations (see Maharsha Yoma 20b).

Anonymous said...

How do you know what was in the sky when Moshe was born?

Ari S. said...

Excellent question. The movements of all the celestial objects can be calculated mathematically. Of course, this is long and tedious, so there is software that does it for you. I strongly recommend Stellarium (a free download at Stellarium.org). It actually recreates the (an interactive) sky for you for any date or any location in the universe. The graphics are pretty good and it is very user friendly. I other programs, as well, and I have used them with each other to make sure that things are accurate.

Anonymous said...


How do you know how to put the Hebrew and secular calendars together (intercalate properly)?

Ari S. said...

Firstly, thanks for the interest.

I use a few programs, but if someone was looking for one decent user friendly program (free), I would certainly tell them to use Stellarium (Stellarium.org).

Regarding the intercalation, I use Seder Olam for the years themselves. A few things that need to be kept in mind are that there is no year 0 in either the secular or Hebrew calendar, and that the Hebrew system has Adam created in the year 2 since 1 was called Shnas Tohu (see the Rambam and Tur on kiddush hachodesh). Also, there can be a differene, sometimes, if one assumes the world was created in Nisan instead of Tishrei (see R"H 11b).

The months and dates are a totally different calculation. Prior to the time of Abaye and Rava (Hillel 2), our calendar was not in use. Rather, the actual new moon was used to determine the firsts of the months. I, therefore, base my months on that. I also look at the dates of the equinoxes in any year that I am looking at and determine which month is Nisan based on that.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ari - I thought your information was interesting. Do you know Moshe's exact time of birh and/ or his ascendent. Is that stated anywhere in torah/ kaballah?

Ari S. said...

The Seder HaDoros mentions that Moshe Rabbeinu's birth was at the end of the third hour of the day. His death is recorded as being at midday according to the Sifri, (Haazinu 337) although that may be in conflict with the Gemara in Berachos (9a) which might maintain that it was at dawn.

Anonymous said...

thanks for your response - Is the third hour starting at midnight or from naitz hachama. If the later - how would you know what time naitz was back then - thanks

Ari S. said...

It would be from daybreak and calculated as taking the amount of time between daybreak and nightfall and taking one quarter of that. There is significant debate as to what constitutes daybreak and nightfall. The most common approaches are attributed to the Magen Avraham and Gra. The M"A approach is to use dawn and dusk (there is significant debate as to how to calculate these such as, but not limited to, using a set 72 minutes prior to sunrise and after sunset, or to use the point when the sun is 16.1 degrees below the horizon). The Gra's approach is to use sunrise and sunset. (See chapter 30 of my Tiferes Aryeh Zevachim for a very interesting approach in these matters.) Practically, to figure these points in time for this specific year you would need to use some sort of software to calculate the times for you. There are plenty of free programs out there that are very useful.

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