ZODIAC

ZODIAC
ZODIAC, in astrology, an imaginary zone in the heavens within which lie the paths of the sun , the moon , and the planets. The zodiac is divided into 12 signs which are mostly symbolically represented by animals (Gr. Ζώδιον, "a little animal"). The twelve-fold division of the zodiac was first developed by the Chaldean astronomers and was almost certainly suggested by the occurrence of the 12 full moons in successive parts of the heaven in the course of one year. It spread to the West about the beginning of the Christian Era. There is no mention of the zodiac in the Talmud, probably as a result of R. Johanan's statement, based on the verse "Thus saith the Lord, learn not the way of the nations and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the (gentile) nations are dismayed at them" (Jer. 10:2), to the effect that "Israel is immune from planetary influence" (Shab. 156a). It is first mentioned in the Sefer Yeẓirah ; and the names given to the 12 signs are direct translations of the Latin names. Thus Aries is called Taleh; Taurus, Shor; Gemini, Te'omim; Cancer, Sartan; Leo, Aryeh; Virgo, Betulah; Libra, Moznayim; Scorpio, Akrav; Sagittarius, Keshet; Capricorn, Gedi; Aquarius, Deli ("a bucket"), and Pisces, Dagim.   According to the Yalkut Shimoni (Lev. 418), however, the standards of the 12 tribes correspond to the signs of the zodiac. Thus in the east were stationed Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun, corresponding to Aries, Taurus, and Gemini; Reuben, Simeon, and Gad in the south correspond to Cancer, Leo, and Virgo; Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin in the west with Libra, Scorpio, and Sagittarius; and Dan, Asher, and Naphtali in the north with Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. A long piyyut based on the 12 signs of the zodiac, Yittaḥ Ereẓ le-Yesha, is included in old maḥzorim accompanying the prayer for rain on Shemini Aẓeret, and the signs of the zodiac usually accompany the printed text. This piyyut has, however, been excluded from all modern maḥzorim, and the only place where the signs appear today are in some calendars. In the Pesikta Rabbati (27–28 ed. Freedman p. 133b) a passage occurs which explains the names of the signs homiletically in accordance with Jewish history. The Temple could not be destroyed in Nisan, since the ram which it represents in the zodiac is a reminder of the Akedah; Taurus is connected with the calf which Abraham slaughtered for his angelic guests (Gen. 18:7); the Gemini represent Jacob and Esau; while the Temple was destroyed in the month of Av, since its zodiacal sign Aryeh, the lion, corresponds to Ariel, a name given to the Temple (Isa. 29:1). The signs of the zodiac figured prominently in early Jewish art, for example on the mosaic floors of ancient Palestinian synagogues (e.g., bet alfa , hammath ) as well as in prayer books, on ketubbot, etc.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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