Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Lifetime of Space Travel

In this week's parsha we are informed of the size of the Klal Yisrael's standing army in the Wilderness. Only those above twenty years of age were eligible to fight. This number seems somewhat arbitrary since the age of adulthood is considered to be thirteen. Rav Yehonasan Eibshitz resolves this by giving some background.

Rav Eibshitz quotes a verse from Tehillim that states that the average life span of a human is seventy years. The numebr seven has extreme celestial connotations, as the natural world is perceived as being under the influences of the seven planets, the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn (a theme discussed in the some of the past few posts).

These planets are depicted as orbiting the Earth (this is how the human perceives them) and the order of the orbital circles is as follows (from farthest to closest): Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury and the Moon. Rav Eibshitz suggests that each planets plays a role in the development of the human and each has influence for ten years.

Saturn governs the first ten years and this is recognized through its Hebrew name, Shabsai, which comes from the same root as Shabbos and means to rest. Saturn has the slowest apparent orbital motion and appears to be resting. A human spends much of these years at home and not able to go out into the world. Thus, Saturn's influence is clearly seen.

The next ten years are those of Jupiter's influence. Known by the Hebrew word for righteousness, Tzedek, Jupiter is perceived to have some of the most beneficial and almost holy qualities. It is during the next ten years that the child will attain adulthood (thirteen for a boy and twelve for a girl) and be able to accomplish his holy task in this world by performing mitzvos.

Rav Eibshitz then suggests that Mars, known as Maadim meaning red, takes over. Mars is associated with blood and death and it is at this age that the human has the appropriate celestial qualities that make him a warrior. Therefore, it is at this stage that the Torah says men should be drafted.

Rav Eibshitz does not tell us why the following thirty years are under the influence of the Sun, Venus and then Mercury. He, instead skips to the last ten years of the average human's life and tells us of the associated lunar traits. Perhaps, from age thirty to forty one is considered to be associated with the Sun because the Sun is the most powerful of the planets. Its abilities and physical influence on Earth make it seem as if it is the most powerful celestial force. These middle years of the human are when he is able to accomplish much of what he will be able to accomplish. These years are the peak of his life.

From forty to sixty he is first influenced by Venus and then Mercury. Perhaps, these planets are chosen because they are both between Earth and the Sun (not in the perceived orbits mentioned above, but in the actual way they orbit the Sun). As such, they are only visible in the sky during the evening twilight and then into the early night or from late night into the morning twilight (Mercury being the closest planet to the Sun is actually never seen during night, but always in twilight). They are never seen in the middle of the night. Perhaps, this is symbolic of the aging of the human and the entrance into the twilight of his life. First with Venus which is visible sometimes just after or before twilight, and then with Mercury which is only seen in the twilight.

Lastly, the person's years from sixty to seventy are governed by the Moon. This is very pronounced, says Rav Eibshitz, by the person turning white. His hair turns gray and then white (I am just praying that I still have hair, at the rate I am going the chances are slim). The Moon is the whitest of the planets and its Hebrew name, Levana, comes from the same grammatical root as that of the word for white, Lavan.

(In case you have been noticing, a lot of the material for my posts, recently, has come from Rav Yehonasan Eibshitz. He seems to understand a lot of symbolism, especially numerical symbolism, to be intertwined with this type of astrology. If you enjoy this type of astrological expression I would highly encourage purchasing the chumash that is currently marketed as his peirushim and contains the Tiferes Yehonasan, which has this type of stuff on chumash, the Ahavas Yeshonasan, which has this type of stuff on haftarah and Divrei Yehonasan which contains a pilpulistic commentary to the chumash. Alternatively, Rabbeinu Bachye seems to offer a lot, as well, albeit with an extremely different style. I must admit, I personally am drawn more to Rabbeinu Bachye's style as it often is more associated with astronomy and I am more drawn to that as opposed to astrology. The style of the upcoming book is more of that nature and so were some of the older posts, but Rav Eibshitz's certainly catches my attention.)

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