Monday, September 13, 2010

Satan's Downfall on Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is a massive present that Hashem has given mankind. We are enabled to cleanse ourselves of our evil doings and receive atonement for earlier misdeeds. The Chinuch mentions that Yom Kippur is one of the kindnesses that Hashem has bestowed upon humanity and that He did so from the beginning of Creation. (Sefer HaChinuch 185)

As with many concepts that are inherently incorporated into the natural events of a year, the concept of Yom Kippur can be found in the celestial objects in the sky. We are all familiar that there are twelve signs (constellations) of the zodiac and that each one is considered to influence a different month. (See Baraisa D'Mazalos 1 and Rashi Rosh Hashana 10b) The month of Tishrei, the one in which Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are found, is symbolized by the sign of Moznayim (Libra) which is shown as a set of scales. How apropos to represent the severity of judgment that humankind finds itself in at this time of year!!!

But, the symbolism is far from over there. The sign of the month is the one that the Sun happens to occupy that month. Without boring everyone with the specifics, every month, the Sun "jumps" from one constellation (sign) to another. (See Rashi Rosh Hashana 10b) Thus, in Tishrei, the Sun is occupying Moznayim (as seen in the included pictures). Akrav (Scorpius), depicted as a scorpion, is one of the two signs that border Moznayim. Akrav is the sign of Marcheshvan because immediately after occupying Moznayim in Tishrei the Sun "jumps" into Akrav during the next month, Marcheshvan (and obviously the month prior to Tishrei the Sun had been in the other constellation that borders Moznayim, Besulah (Virgo) the Maiden which is the sign of Elul). (This is based on the sky as it was during the time of Chazal, things have changed a bit since then, but this system is still in place as noted by the Rambam in Yesodei HaTorah 3:9)

The venomous and low lying Akrav is seen by Chazal as representing the harsh repercussions and the outcome of judgment. Scorpions live in low lying places and sting when least expected, very similar to the harsh judgment for following one's evil inclination (Tanchuma Haazinu 1) Akrav is also seen as being symbolic of man's evil inclination and symbolic of the forces of spiritual impurity, the Satan and death. (See Ramban VaYikra 16:8 and Rabbeinu Bachye Bereishis 32:10) Thus, it was seen as natural to have this depiction follow the Scales of Judgment of Tishrei. (Tanchuma Haazinu 1) On Yom Kippur, however, we have the opportunity to free ourselves of this punishment. Chazal teach us that it is the one day of the entire year that the Satan does not have the ability to bring us to judgment. השטן, the Hebrew word meaning "the Satan" has a numerical value of 364 displaying that he only has power for 364 if the 365 days of the year. (Yoma 20a)

It is fascinating to see what the sky looks like on 10 Tishrei, Yom Kippur. During sunrise as the scales of Moznayim rise and display their power, Akrav can be seen trailing behind. However, at sunset when the constellations are showing which ones "fall" into the darkness of night, one can see that Akrav sets at the same time as Moznayim. Thus, these two constellations are the first to set at night. Moznayim has the Sun, percieved as a powerful object, so it is considered to be powerful throughout the month regardless of whether it is rising or setting; Akrav, however, sets first with no Sun in it. Therefore, Akrav can be seen as setting and having no power.

More fascinatingly, on this specific date, it is the star Antares (circled in the pictures) that is setting very quickly. Antares is an extremely red star and is depicted as the heart of the scorpion of Akrav. It was oft compared to Mars due to its redness. The above sources mention that Mars is also considered to represent the evil forces mentioned above and, thus, Antares is considered to display these concepts very strongly. In fact, the name Antares comes from the Greek which means "like Mars". (Kunitsch and Smart's A Dictionary of Modern Star Names, 52)

How fascinating it is to see that on the day of Yom Kippur both the constellation and star that represent the Satan are seen as in positions of complete impotence. The Satan has no power on Yom Kippur and we have the opportunity to free ourselves and reconnect with Hashem!

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