Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Did Yaakov Leave the Solar System?

After Yaakov Avinu fled Lavan's house, Lavan chased after Yaakov. When the two met up, Lavan says to Yaakov that had Yaakov informed him that he was leaving then Lavan would have made a going away procession complete with joy, song, drum, and lyre! (See Bereishis 31:27) I find it very interesting that Lavan specified drum and lyre as the instruments of choice.

The way the cosmos is described in classical rabbinic literature is to have Earth in the center and several concentric spheres around it. Each sphere contains a planet, stars, or other celestial object. There are a total of nine spheres and going from ninth to first they are: the sphere that rotates the inner spheres, the fixed (regular) stars, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon. Rabbeinu Bacheye teaches that people are able to express the celestial concept of each sphere through various musical instruments. These are expressed in the order from outer sphere to inner sphere in Tehillim 150. (Rabbeinu Bacheye Shemos 32:19)

As such, the instruments Lavan specified correspond to Jupiter (drum) and Saturn (lyre). It is of note that these correspond to the last objects of the solar system prior to entering the sphere of the regular stars. The regular stars are divided into constellations and the primary ones are the twelve constellations of the zodiac. Numerous statements of Chazal compare these twelve constellations to the twelve shevatim. (See Bamidbar Rabbah 13, for example). Although only eleven of these twelve were born at the time Yaakov fled Lavan's house, perhaps, Lavan was saying that had he known Yaakov was going to leave because the shevatim were almost complete then he would have sent him off appropriately. How better to display this send off than by showing that Yaakov was on the cusp of having the twelve shevatim! By celebrating with the last two objects of the solar system, Lavan would be showing how Yaakov was on the cusp of transcending this realm and completing the shevatim who correspond to the next sphere, the eighth.

There are several chapters in my upcoming book from Israel Book Shop, The Secrets of the Stars that focus on the correlation between the shevatim and the zodiac. Keep your eyes open because it should be in stores in about a week and a half.

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