What Is Wrong With Astrology?
By Gutman Locks
This week is one of the times of the year when negative things have frequently come to the Jewish people. May they never return again. But if this is true, why is being cautious this week any different than following astrology?
The Torah warns us twice not to engage in divination.[i] Astrology is one of a dozen forms of divination. What they all have in common is their claim to be able to predict the future. Some use the stars, some use tea leaves left in the bottom of a cup. From bread crumbs to bumps on your skull, they all say that they can tell you what you should or should not do today because certain things are going to happen to you in the future. Astrologers say that these things will happen because of the influences that the cosmos has on your life.
The astrologers who believe in a Creator say that G-d gave certain powers over to these constellations and that these stars and heavenly bodies are now “partners” with G-d in His creation.
There are also references in rabbinical writings that tell us that certain times are propitious while other times are dangerous. For instance, it is well known that at certain times of the week “Mars prevails” and that this produces a dangerous time for certain activities.[ii] The sages also tell us that certain times of the year bring good fortune to the Jewish People while other times bring danger. How is this different than astrology?
The answer turns out to be quite simple. If it is a natural occurrence, known that at certain times certain things regularly happen, then to act accordingly is simply common sense. But if someone is predicting your future and telling you that this is what is going to happen to you, then this is divination and it is forbidden. The worse thing about this practice is that they are saying that you do not have free will, that you are subject to the will of the stars or bread crumbs, and this is just not true.
Every one of us can turn in any direction at any time. We can direct our futures to go wherever we want. Do not let a soothsayer convince you that any planet, spirit, or good luck sign or anything at all can lead you where it wills. You can set your goal wherever you want and begin to move in that direction today.
And what of their claim that the cosmos have power and therefore are partners with G-d in His creation? When the sages say that at certain times a certain planet prevails, aren’t they verifying that that planet has power and therefore is, in fact, a partner with G-d?
When someone hands you a glass of water, ask yourself, who is giving you the water – the glass or the person? The ones who believe that the planet is a partner with G-d believe that the planet is giving them that influence. Those who know who the Creator is know that it is G-d Who is doing it all.
Questions On Astrology
Questions: As a Noahide I have heard it being said that it’s alright for us to believe in astrology, and some quoted Rambam.
However, don’t you feel it is wrong for us too, since the 7 laws covers idolatry, and one can become so obsessed with astrology and forget G-d is the Director of events?
And: What if you don't believe that the stars have any independent power at all, that they are simply channels for distributing various influences from Hashem and that an astrology can interpret what influences might be predominant at a particular time, what character traits might be prevalent in a person and what they need to work on spiritually? Is that forbidden? There is certainly a long tradition of Jewish Astrology.
According to most (but not all), authoritative Jewish sources, a non-Jew is allowed to believe in the concept of “partnership.” “Partnership” is a belief that G-d has designated some power to certain entities, such as angels, or stars. However, no one allows any type of worship of these entities that house these powers. All worship must be directed to the One and Only, Omnipresent G-d. But now that you know that this is an allowed, but not factual concept, why bother with it. Why talk to a servant when you can talk to the King?
Not wanting to rely on my own understanding, I asked a very well known rabbi your question regarding interpreting influences that vary from time to time. His answer was, “What is forbidden is to say that this is a good time to go out, or not to go out, to do certain things, or not to do certain things. To say that the times tell me that today is a good day for you to work on a particular characteristic trait is not forbidden. It is just foolishness.
[i] Leviticus 19:26, Deuteronomy 18:10
[ii] Gemora Shabbos 129b
Gil Locks lives in the Old City of Jerusalem. You can visit Gil online at www.thereisone.com and purchase one of his great books!
from the July 2009 Edition of the Jewish Magazine