Monday, August 21, 2017

Sin and eclipses according to the Talmud

ASTRONOMY: Solar Eclipse of 2017: Four Reasons It's Bad, According to the Talmud. Judaism's central rabbinic text says today's solar eclipse is nothing to celebrate (Allison Kaplan Sommer, Haaretz).
But at the downtown Brith Shalom Beth Israel synagogue Sunday evening, nestled in the historic southern city perfectly positioned for the Monday event, Dr. Jeremy Brown had bad news for a group who had gathered for a kosher meal on “Eclipse Eve”: in traditional Judaism, an eclipse is nothing to celebrate.

“Eclipses happen because people sin,” he said. There’s no getting around it, Brown says. The Talmud - the central text of rabbinic Judaism - is unambiguous in its interpretation of eclipses - both lunar and solar, as a form of divine punishment - a curse to be dreaded and feared, rather than a miraculous wonder of nature.

If that isn’t bad enough, Brown told his audience of Charleston locals and Jews who had come to the city for the big event, the four sins specifically blamed by the Talmud plunging the earth into eerie darkness are so notably bizarre and politically incorrect, that nobody really wants to talk about them.
This has led to a certain amount of exegetical difficulty in the centuries since.

Meanwhile, if you are in a position to observe today's eclipse, please stay safe!

An earlier post on today's eclipse is here. Some past PaleoJudaica posts dealing with (or debunking stories about) solar and lunar eclipses are here and here and links. And see also this recent post by Carl Rasmussen at the HolyLandPhoto's Blog: A Solar Eclipse and Old Testament Chronology.

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