Monday, July 11, 2011


This week marks a very special birthday! None other than planet Neptune. No, Neptune was not created on July 12, nor was that the date of its discovery, sort of. Every planet in our Solar System orbits the Sun. However, the time it takes for each planet to complete one full orbit is completely dependent on the distance between it and the Sun. Neptune is the farthest planet from the Sun (ever since they put Pluto in cherem) and this means that it has the longest orbit. It takes Neptune just under 165 (Earth) years for it to complete one of its own. Thus, in Neptunian years, this July 12 will mark the one year date since its discovery on September 23, 1846.

Although it may not seem controversial in today's day and age to suggest that the planets Uranus and Neptune exist, this was a fairly big point of contention in earlier years. Chazal and many of the Rishonim (as well as other ancient societies) refer to there being seven "planets" that influence this world: the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. These are all the common objects that have their own perceived motion relative to the stars and are visible to the naked eye. Many mystical concepts reference this system of seven (including the sefiros) and when Uranus was discovered in 1781 by Sir William Herschel people seriously began to have serious questions with regards to these earlier systems. If the Rishonim mention that these seven bodies influence the Earth in a metaphysical, what should one now think now that there are more of these planets involved. Does the system need to be completely reworked?

While some did not see abandoning this old system as problematic, others dedicated time and effort to show that the original system could incorporate these new concepts. Perhaps, the most famous is the Sefer HaBris from Vilna. He maintained that all the celestial objects are utilized by Hashem to shower His will upon our planet. However, some exert more influence than others. The seven visible planets exert the most force and were thus discussed directly by the earlier sources. The "invisible" ones were too distant and insignificant to affect this planet with any significance so they were not even discussed.

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