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Above The Stars: The Jewish View on Astrology

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

I used to love checking my horoscope. Every morning for years, without fail, I went online to see how the stars were aligned for me that day. When I started to learn more about Judaism, I was surprised to learn that while Judaism recognizes astrology as valid, Jews are prohibited from using it.

What is Mazal?

Most people think mazal means luck. If you ask Dr. Rabbi Akiva Tatz, there could not be a more inaccurate translation! Luck implies randomness, whereas mazal is a very intentional flow of blessing from G-d to us. Because G-d’s Hand is hidden, Rabbi Tatz explains, our mazal seems random, but it is not.[1] The word for “world” in Hebrew is olam, which means hidden. The nature of this world is that G-d is hidden, but that doesn’t mean He is not there. On the contrary, Judaism firmly believes in a Creator who not only created the world, but is intimately involved in the life of every person.

G-d created a world through which the laws of nature, including the system of astrology, operate. We have discussed the idea of nature and miracles in Judaism. In sum, the natural laws are the consistent framework we are used to: 24 hour days, day and night, etc. However, part of the natural order is that G-d can manipulate nature. So a person diagnosed with a cancerous tumor, G-d forbid, can be “miraculously” cured without a “natural” explanation if G-d so chooses to take away the tumor.

Astrology is Idol Worship?

By looking to the system of astrology instead of looking to G-d, we are essentially committing idol worship. That may sound extreme, but what is idol worship really? It is the worship of intermediaries, the channels that bring down energy into the world, instead of the ultimate Source, Who controls the channels in the first place.[2] Idolatry also occurs when people give honor to the sun, the moon, water, etc. G-d created these natural channels to give us blessing; they have no inherent power.

An analogy illustrates how self-defeating idolatrous behavior is: imagine you go to a department store and you need to return something, but the clerk behind the counter refuses to refund the item. Wouldn’t it make more sense to speak to the manager, who can actually do something about the situation, as oppose to bargaining with the clerk, who cannot?  By focusing on astrology, the intermediary channels, we limit our ability to change our mazal; if we prayed to G-d, who controls everything, we would be so much better off![3]

In fact, the Torah teaches that one who chooses to submit himself to the natural system makes himself bound by that system. In other words, if we check our horoscope or go to a psychic, our reality may be fixed based on what we hear. This is a great shame, because Jews are “above the stars,” so to speak. We can change our mazal, our blessings, through our moral actions! This power is what makes man “the image of G-d.” We have free will. For instance, by learning Torah and doing mitzvot, we connect ourselves to G-d and change for the better, which could warrant a new mazal or flow of blessing.

This may sound like a “new age” application of the Torah, but it is not. In Bereishis (Genesis), Abraham asks G-d, how is it that I will have a son if the stars predict that I will be childless? The Torah says, Hashem “takes [Abraham] outside [his tent]” which is understood mystically as, He took Abraham outside the sphere of the natural, the stars. “You are not bound by those channels, Hashem teaches him. They are natural, they define the inevitable; you are transcendent, you can define your own destiny.”[4]

Going Deeper

If we have access to the King, so to speak, why are so many of us content to deal with his servants? Simply, the answer is selfishness. If we seek blessing from G-d Himself, this requires work on our part to develop our relationship with Him. We need to work on cleaving to G-d, to serving Him and becoming vessels that merit His blessing. However, people focused on the intermediaries don’t feel a sense of obligation to the stars; they are usually just concerned with what the stars can do for them. As Rabbi Tatz explains, the focus on G-d is worship, whereas the focus on our personal desires and how the world can fulfill them is idolatry.[5]

I bless us that we should focus on building a relationship with G-d, the Source of life, Who wants us to talk to Him and can do anything for us. In this way, we can make our own destiny.

Book Suggestion:  Rabbi Akiva Tatz, Living Inspired (Rabbi Tatz has a gift for discussing deep, relevant concepts in Judaism such as: astrology, doubt and certainty, faith, laughter, miracles, silence, desire, imagination, beauty, time.)

Audio Suggestion: Rabbi Akiva Tatz, Idolatry and Astrology (for more on this subject).

[1] Rabbi Akiva Tatz, Living Inspired, “Beyond Astrology,” p. 69-77.

[2] Id. at 72.73.

[3] Based on an analogy by Rabbi Simcha Wasserman, zt”l, as told in Id. at 73-74.

[4] Id. at 75-76

[5] Id. at 73-75.

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