The wisdom of Jewish time is intricately connected to the skies. A new day arrives at sundown. A new month arrives with the appearance of a new moon. Many of our holidays occur during the full moon.
What about the stars? Does Jewish wisdom take into account the constellations and their movements? It may surprise you to learn that the answer is yes!
Each Hebrew month is intricately connected to a constellation, forming what we call the Jewish Zodiac. In Hebrew, the word for constellation is mazal, and it represents a cluster of stars forming a distinctive pattern. During each month, the sun passes through a particular constellation.
Each Month’s Jewish Zodiac Sign
You can think of the constellations as being like the facial expression of the Divine. Just as our facial expressions give cues about our inner emotions, the celestial bodies can be seen as an indicator of the spiritual energy of the moment. They serve as an external expression of the Creator's internal world.
Each season, including the changes in weather and nature, mirrors the energetic qualities of that time. Just as a sunny day can uplift us and a cloudy day might bring a sense of melancholy, these influences can shape our experiences. However, we are reminded that we have the power to rise above these influences and choose our own path.
If you’ve read common astrology, you may have a sense that your birth chart is an immutable force shaping your life. In other words, “Oh, you’re a Pisces, so you’re always going to do X, Y, Z.” The Zohar, one of the classic books of Jewish mysticism, does note that each Zodiac sign has a positive and a shadow side (Zohar 3, 232a). But our Sages teach that stars do not dictate our fate. We can go beyond our mazal!
Rashi teaches that da’at (integrated awareness) is our real mazal (Rashi, Bava Kama 2b). Through our attention and response to what is unfolding, we have the power to creatively choose our path, no matter what outside influences there are.
The Talmud also suggests that prayer, reflection, and connection to the Divine are paths to transcend the influence of the constellations, as it says, “There is no mazal (constellation) for Israel” (Shabbat 156b:2). We can live from a higher place — above the stars. We can always tap into the Source and rise beyond.
If we can transcend the Zodiac, why pay attention to it at all? Personally, I find it so helpful to understand the spiritual and emotional patterns of each month. There are times that are more conducive to exploring our anger (like in Tevet), and there are times devoted to embracing joy (like in Adar). Living with the times allows us to embrace the ebbs and flows in life, without fighting them.
As King Solomon so eloquently put it in Ecclesiastes 3:1: “For everything there is a season and there is a time for everything under the sky — a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to reap that which is planted” and so on.
To learn more about the Jewish Zodiac of each month, keep an eye out for our newest offering — Moon by Moon: A Guided Journal for a Year of Well-Being. Each month’s journaling practices includes teachings and prompts to help you consider how the monthly mazal can inspire you!
At The Well uplifts many approaches to Jewish practice. Our community draws on ancient Jewish wisdom, sometimes adapting longstanding practices to more deeply support the well-being of women and nonbinary people. See this article’s sources below. We believe Torah (sacred teachings) are always unfolding to help answer the needs of the present moment.
The Twelve Dimensions of Israel by Nechama Sarah Nadborny
The Book of Days by Jill Hammer
The Spiral of Time by Rav Dovber Pinson