Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Blood Moon Tetrads-The Jewish Perspective
By Ken Spiro

There has been a great deal of excitement and expectation surrounding an astronomical phenomenon called the Blood Moon Tetrad, which will take place between April 2014 and September 2015. The Blood Moon Tetrad occurs when there are four total lunar eclipses, back-to-back, in a short period of time, with no partial eclipses in between.

Tetrads are a fairly rare phenomenon. During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries there weren’t any at all, while during  other centuries there have been multiple tetrads within a relatively short time span.  What is particularly intriguing about this tetrad is the timing:

April 15, 2014-first night of Passover

October 8, 2014-first night of Succoth

April 4, 2015—first night of Passover

September 28, 2015-first night of Succoth

To have a tetrad fall out at the beginning of the major Jewish festivals is a far rarer phenomenon.  The last two times it occurred was in 1949-50, at the end of Israel’s War of Independence, and 1967-68, before and after the Six Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem.  Given the events that surrounded the last two tetrads –it’s no wonder that there is so much interest and speculation, especially among Evangelical Christians, as to the significance of the current tetrad.

So what is the Jewish perspective on the all of this?

The first place to begin is of course the Bible. In Genesis 1:14-16 it states: God said, “Let there be luminaries in the firmament of the heaven to separate between day and night; and they shall serve as signs, and for festivals and for days and years…”And it was so. And God made the two great luminaries, the great luminary to dominate the day and the lesser luminary to dominate the night; and the stars.

From the Jewish perspective, besides providing light to the world, the other function of the celestial bodies is to serve as a cosmic clock that informs us when a new month begins (a Jewish month is one orbit of the moon around the earth:29.5 days) and when the holidays fall during the yearly cycle. Since the Jewish calendar is based on the lunar cycle, the moon (and anything that happens to it) is associated with the Jewish people.  The majority of the world uses a solar calendar; therefore, the sun is associated with the Gentiles.

On a deeper level, the idea that these heavenly bodies exert a spiritual influence on the world (astrology) can also be found in Jewish sources.  The great 18th century scholar, Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzatto wrote:

It was for this purpose that the stars and their planets were created.  Through their cycles, all phenomena rooted in the spiritual realm are transmitted and reflected to their physical counterparts. (The Way of God-Part II, chap 7.)

Simply put, what happens on the earth is somehow influenced by the heavens.  The question is to what extent?

Another interesting idea that exists in Jewish thought is that while stars do exert some sort of influence on the destiny of the individual and human affairs in general, the Jewish nation is above this influence.  The Talmud (Tractate Nedarim 32a) states “Ain mazal b’Yisroel” – “There is no luck/constellation* in Israel”, and given the supernatural and unique nature of Jewish history, one could certainly make a good case for this statement.
Given these two conflicting ideas, there are no 100% clear opinions as to the significance of eclipses in Jewish philosophy. However, based on Jewish thought, historical events associated with past eclipses, and even prophetic statements in the Bible, one could definitely make the case that solar and lunar eclipses are somehow associated with major events in Jewish and world history.

One of the clearest and possibly scariest indications of what eclipses might symbolize is found in the Book of Joel Chapter 3: 4, where the prophet describes the events leading up to the Messiah’s arrival with the words:  “…the sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood [red] before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.”

From the Jewish perspective it may well be the Blood Moon Tetrad is a powerful sign of major events to come. As much as we may speculate on the meaning of events in the heavens, we just have to look here on earth at the headlines… turmoil in the Middle East, Iran going nuclear, Russian re-emergence on the world’s stage, global economic instability, etc., to realize that major changes on planet earth may be just over the horizon. May God give us the strength to survive these travails and may we all merit seeing the happy ending of the story.

*In Hebrew the word mazal means luck but is also the word for constellation or sign of the zodiac

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