If you are in New York and have an interest in astrology, you may want to check out this exhibit at The Jewish Museum;
The Jewish Museum will present Signs and Symbols: The Zodiac from November 15, 2019 through September 14, 2020, featuring works from the Museum’s collection that depict the astrological signs. Jewish communities, adapting and adopting local practices over the centuries, incorporated these symbols into ceremonial objects, synagogue architecture, and art even though rabbinic authorities reject astrology as part of Jewish practice.
TO LEARN MORE: <https://thejewishmuseum.org/press/press-release/zodiac-scenes-release>
WORKS IN THE EXHIBITION: <https://thejewishmuseum.org/exhibitions/scenes-from-the-collection#signs-and-symbols>
Signs and Symbols: The Zodiac
A frequently heard congratulatory expression, mazal tov literally means “good luck” or “good zodiac sign,” the Hebrew term mazal signifying both “luck” and “zodiac sign.” (Justin’s note: More accurately, “mazal” means “luck of the stars” and “tov” means “good.”) Decorated Jewish marriage contracts often include the saying, as do Torah binders fashioned from the swaddling cloth used at a male infant’s circumcision. The boy’s name, followed by the phrase “born under a good sign” and his zodiac symbol, is also painted or embroidered on the binder.
In the Bible, Israelites are forbidden to practice divination and soothsaying. The Talmud recounts that, when aged Abraham learned that he was going to have a son, he said: “I looked at my astrological [map] and I am not fit to have a son.” To this God replied “there is no constellation for Israel,” implying that Jews should not look to the stars to know their fates. In medieval Spain, where Christianity, Islam, and Judaism converged for a time, astronomical works were translated, studied, and authored by Jews who were also versed in astrology. Yet the great rabbinical authority Moses Maimonides repudiated astrology, which he viewed as falsehood and star worship.
So how do we explain the popularity of the theme of the zodiac in Jewish art? Jews adopted and adapted local practices early on. Ancient synagogue mosaics featuring the zodiac were allowed as long as they were not venerated. Divested of human representations, the cycle appeared in painted interiors of Polish wooden synagogues, which were later destroyed during the Holocaust. Depictions of the signs both display distinctive traits and emulate other traditions. The zodiac was incorporated into richly decorated works, as seen in this gallery, used to safeguard the Torah or emphasize its majesty, and to mark life-cycle events and holidays
COME SEE THIS EXHIBITION AT THE JEWISH MUSEUM TO LEARN THE WIDE-RANGING USES OF THE SIGNS OF THE ZODIAC AROUND THE WORLD.
The Jewish Museum
1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street
New York, NY 10128