Two interesting events happened this week. The first, of course was the solar eclipse. For the first time in 40 years, the moon passed in front of the sun. In certain parts of the country, people got to see the full eclipse. People traveled from all over the world to the most affected areas to get the full experience. People took off from work and some businesses actually let people off for the few hours that it would happen in that area. Major TV and cable networks gave it full coverage. For those who weren’t in the highlighted areas, they could track the progress on their computers. Even the space station beam down footage of this rare occurrence.
The other event was associated with this and affected a couple of cultures on this planet, including ours, the Jewish religion. As it does every 29 or 30 days, the “new” moon—as it is called, since it was not visible due to its position against the sun—signaled in a new month. We Jews honor and acknowledge the new month as a sort of mini-new year, 11 or 12 times per year. There are additional prayers that are specific to the event that are inserted into the regular services. There is also the addition of a Mussaf service—even if it occurs during the week when there wouldn’t normally be one—to commemorate and take the place of the additional sacrifice in the days of the Temple.
People enjoyed the event, and some took it to the next level. Some people lauded the event as “the” event. There were astrological implications as well as omens and auguries of things to come, both good and bad. Some people read all sorts of energy happenings into the event. But this happens with unusual or rare celestial events. Some people heralded it as foretelling both good and bad things to come. During the full moon, as well, some people pulled out their crystals and rejoiced in the energy.
Such is man’s and women’s search for meaning, as Carl Jung would say.
But what does Judaism say? What about our own culture and heritage?
It just so happens that this week’s Torah portion does just that. Among other things, it addresses the whole idea of using the movement and gesticulations of the heavenly bodies to usher it portents, either good or bad. The short answer is: they don’t.
In fact, we have a prayer—or if you’d like in this age of adoring nature and yoga and mindfulness—an affirmation, that addresses this very concept. It is said during the Evening Service, the Ma’ariv, and it is the first prayer before the Shema. It the “Ma’ariv Aravim” and it is very explicit in confirming that HaShem sets the planets and heavenly bodies that move “according to Your Divine Will”.
That’s really all we Jews need to know. While other folks are out there looking for auguries and trying to see in Nature the resolution to their secular challenges, we Jews put our faith in HaShem. Not only do the heavenly bodies move according to His—or, yes, Her—Divine Will, but so does everything else. In fact, one of the affirmations during the Torah service states, “in You alone do we put our trust”.
This week’s Torah portion, “Shoftim”, elaborates on the second Commandment, to not have any other gods before us. That includes stars and planets. We know that these objects are not gods and we do not pray to them or ascribe any type of metaphysical ability to somehow determine or control our destiny. They are inanimate objects whose purpose is determined by G-d.
That in itself requires a lot of faith. Some sages will say that Judaism may be a religion, but it’s not a faith. We don’t need faith. When HaShem gave Moshe Rabbeinu the Torah, there were 2 ½ million Israelites (and some rabble) looking on. Some will even go so far and state that all of us, every Jew who ever lived or would live, was there as well. So there’s no need to believe because we all saw it.
We all know the power and scope of G-d. We don’t need to try to figure out how to manipulate Nature the get all the signs in our favor. Everything happens according “to Your Divine will”. That’s all we need. We know that anomalies in Nature, whether they are eclipses, hurricanes or the splitting of the Sea of Reeds is built into the scheme of the Cosmos. So we go right to the source.