Rif on ibn Ezra Legacy by DBL
Shlomo Sela has edited a multivolume set on ibn Ezra’s astrological writings for Brill Press: Abraham Ibn Ezra on Nativities and Continuous Horoscopy:A Parallel Hebrew-English Critical Edition of the Book of Nativities and the Book of Revolution. Abraham Ibn Ezra’s Astrological Writings. Sela's astronomical writings of ibn Ezra offer the first critical edition, accompanied with English translation and astral commentary, of 'Sefer ha-Moladot', which addresses the doctrine of nativities and the system of continuous horoscopy in nativities, and of 'Sefer ha-Tequfah', which is devoted exclusively to continuous horoscopy in nativities. The doctrine of nativities makes predictions about the whole of an individual's subsequent life on the basis of the natal chart, and the system of continuous horoscopy in nativities is concerned with the interval between life and [death] and makes predictions based mainly on anniversary horoscopes, which are juxtaposed with the natal horoscope. To Abraham Ibn Ezra's mind, not only are these two doctrines the core of astrology; they also epitomize the praxis of the astrological métier. If the Zodiac is a secret key or Rossetta stone for deciphering G-d as providential shepherd sheperding his flock of angelic hosts whose eyes are the stars which watch and guard meritorious individuals in proportion to the individual’s attainment of intellectual virtue who sailing the sea of heavenly space by the constellations of thought, then this work by ibn Ezra enlightens the “eyes of its pupils” with expanded consciousness, light years and parasangs away of the purpose, function, and secrets of the heavenly bodies, As ibn Ezra looks at the 1st bringing down of the soul at the key moment of conception, so too in his Torah commentaries ibn Ezra often suggests that to know a concept one must look at its first appearance in the Torah..
The Kail Adon prayer/song sung on Shabbos, which the GRA notes is an encryption for the planets which in Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer are said to move in the heavens like the hakafot on Simchat Torah and which in Menorat HaMaor are represented in the branches of the menorah all direct our interpretative gaze heavenword and its correlations with torah. The makloket between Pharisees and Sadducees in Tosefta Hagigah 3,8) (see: Yalqut Pequdei 40, #419; cf. Midrash Tadshe 11, Bet ha-Midrash 3, p. 175: חמה כנגד חמה ולבנה שבעת נרותיה כנגד ז" כוכבים המשמשין את העולם - Ergo The Menorah represents the sun and moon. Its seven lights represent the seven planets which serve the world; See Philo Quis rerum divinarum heres 225 & De vita Mosis 2, 102 & Josephus Antiq. 3, 146)/ Zechariah 4:10- 7 branches~ the eyes of Hashem ranging over the earth… pure diadem on Joshua צניף טהור ergo like מצנפת ציץ ] . Indeed esoteric mysteries are hinted at in this work which in material terms can be found in the mosaics of the Zodiac correlating to the Hebrew months in the synagogues of Tzippori, Bet Alpha, and even the Bialastocker shul of New York!
In ibn Ezra’s long commentary on Shemot, ibn Ezra even relates each of the aserot ha-debrot (10 commandments) to a specific different constellation, by distinguishing between the lower constellations (the negative commandments) and the higher constellations (the positive commandments). Yet ibn Ezra does not always allegorize the torah as when he defines one of the 4 rivers that encircle Gan Eden, i.e. Pishon, as the Nile river. This literalism sometimes got ibn Ezra’s torah commentary into controversy. For example Bible critics from Spinoza to Wellhausen denied the divine origin of torah sometimes falsely and misallegedly using ibn Ezra’ s work to justify their out of the fold interpretations of the human authorship of divine revealed law. However Shadal, Rabbi Samuel David Luzatto defended ibn Ezra from these unjust attacks, proving that ibn Ezra was a traditional Jew who accepted the divine origin of the supernaly revealed torah. For excellent translation of ibn Ezra on the Torah see Rabbi Norman Strickman’s wonderful work. As well Rabbi Strickman has translated ibn Ezra’s commentary on Tehillim. A great boon to the English reading public, as well as scholars interested in the science and art of translation.
Thus ibn Ezra, is not coming out of the blue or from left field but drawing on a long standing tradition of astronomy, science, and biblical commentary to illuminate the relationship between science (astronomy) and Torah. Ibn Ezra was a mathematical genius. A true polymath. His creativity was in part his ability to illuminate the world of torah with his knowledge of science,, grammar, and even the poetic craft. Ibn Ezra’s philosophic work the Yesod Morah is also a tour de force that combines wisdom from various perspectives . Whether one is encountering Ibn Ezra as a darshan, poet, astronomer, or grammarian as with Robert Browning in his poem “Ibn Ezra” ibn Ezra's brilliant texts invite the student: “Come grow old with me, the best is yet to be! “
David B Levy