Thursday, January 14, 2010

Yeshaya HaNavi's New World Order?

The astronomical reference in this week’s Haftarah is pretty fantastic. Although many of these posts are theories, I have found that there is a disproportionate amount of wording in Sefer Yeshaya that often has a dual meaning in the astronomical sense (Yechezkel is a close second). Because of that, it seems that when one encounters some of these underlying themes in this sefer that it is hard to discount them. Also, has to realize that the average person was as in tune with the stars, their movements and representations (they were perceived to be the ideas of nature and necessary for their agricultural society) and would certainly see these references as being obvious (like allusions in poetry or literature that are referencing contemporary issues).

The pasuk states (Yeshaya 66:3),

"שוחט השור מכה איש זובח השה ערף כלב מעלה מנחה דם חזיר מזכיר לבנה מברך און וגו'"

One who slaughters an ox [is as if he] has struck a man, the offering of a sheep [is like] the killing [by means through the back of the neck] of a dog, the giving of a flour offering [likened to] pig’s blood, the burning (see Metzudos) of frankincense is a forced blessing, etc."

The prophet is discussing the order of the world as man develops. At first the prophet focuses on the destructive path of man (as seen above) but the end of the chapter details the end of times when order will be restored and the wicked punished. It is interesting to see that the aforementioned verse seems to contain a very astronomical idea.

As we all know, there are four season and they start on the dates of the two equinoxes and two solstices. These dates are not just points in time, but the placement of the sun in the sky on these dates is integral. The location against the backdrop of stars is also referred to by the names of equinox and solstice. These areas were given significant weight by all ancient civilizations (see Ibn Ezra’s Sefer HaTa’amim).

At the time of Creation these four points were located in Shor/Taurus, Aryeh/Leo, Akrav/Scorpius, D’li/Aquarius. Over long periods of time, the stars appear to drift from their original place and, by the time of Chazal, these points shifted to being in the location of T’leh/Aries, Sartan/Cancer, Moznayim/Libra and G’di/Capricorn. Currently they have shifted even more and are in: Dagim/Pisces, Teomim/Gemini, Besulah/Virgo and Keshes/Sagittarius. The next shift will be similar to the first one mentioned, but with the order having D’li first and Akrav last. The shifts will continue in that fashion causing one to state that there are three basic makeups of these four points over the course of this world’s lifespan.

When analyzing the pasuk above, one sees that every grouping of three has two objects that seem to refer to two points of four from each set. All show the destruction of that item and could be showing that that item’s importance was being destroyed as the sun will no longer be placed in it during these important times.

The slaughter of an ox is compared to the striking of a man. The ox is the first point mentioned, Shor, and D’li, the last point, is considered to be a human pouring water and described, astrologically as human (see Ibn Ezra’s Reishis Chachma and Sefer HaTa’amim). The next grouping has a sheep and a dog. The sheep is T’leh, the first of the second set, and the dog, perhaps, is referencing Sartan. The dog is described as being killed from the back of its neck. If one looks to the constellations representing dogs in the sky, Canis Major and Canis Minor, he will see Cancer/Sartan, riding on the back of their necks. The next reference is the offering of flour and the blood of a pig. This seems to be showing the in between stage of the second and third set. (The first switching of sets had primarily happened in the time of Yeshaya , so perhaps, from the first to second set the prophet saw no need to discuss the in between motion.) In the hand of the Besulah is the star Spica and it is considered to be represented as stalks of wheat (see Ibn Ezra’s Reishis Chachma) and it is on the edge of Besulah. On the edge of Cancer is a star pattern that the Ibn Ezra tells us is represented as an iron pig (Reishis Chachma). Finally, the frankincense and the forced blessing can be shown as Dagim and Besulah. Dagim is considered to rule over many species plant life, including frankincense, and the way to describe the destruction of a Besulah would be to discuss the idea of her being forcibly taken (this is how Chazal reference the act of forcibly taking a woman as Ones, force). Therefore, perhaps, the "forced" blessing is showing the destruction of the Besulah.

Throughout the exile these changes of stellar position have all happened. Perhaps, the future will bring us something new. This can be seen in the phrase used by Yeshaya later in the Haftarah (Yeshaya 66:22),

"כי כאשר השמים החדשים והארץ החדשה אשר אני עשה וגו'"

"Because like the new heavens and the new world that I make, etc."

May we all merit to seeing this realization soon.

1 comment:

Ari S. said...

In my rush to post this I had accidentally mentioned that Aryeh was in charge of frankincense. This was due to the fact that I was not paying as much attention to what I was typing as I was typing. It was supposed to say Dagim (Pisces). Clearly, Aryeh did not make sense in that place. This is based on the Ibn Ezra. The post has been corrected accordingly.