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    Eclipses – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Is there a Jewish view on eclipses? A Chinese colleague heard that Jews regard an eclipse as a good thing whereas the Chinese believe it is caused by the “sky dog” eating up the sun and so is a bad thing.

    A. The sun was a subject of absorbing interest for every ancient culture.

    According to B’reshit, sun and moon were created on the fourth day (Gen. 1:16), but as the sun was larger it was regarded as more powerful.

    The sages said that originally both were the same size but when the moon complained about this its size was reduced (Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 6).

    The rising and setting of the sun had poetical significance; the sun was regarded as having a habitation from which it emerged in the morning like a groom coming out of the bridal chamber (Ps. 19:5).

    The sun brought benefit to the earth (Deut. 33:14), its permanence symbolised lasting fame (Ps. 72:17), and its “wings” brought healing (Mal. 3:20).

    Twice in the T’nach the sun “stood still”, in the time of Joshua (Josh. 10:12) and Hezekiah (II Kings 20:8), but it is not at all certain that this was an eclipse.

    A verse in Jeremiah (10:2), “Learn not the way of the nations; be not dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the heathen are dismayed at them”, is understood by the rabbis as referring to eclipses, which other nations regard as evil omens whilst Judaism sees them as part of the Divine system (Sukk. 29a).

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