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The Planet Saturn and the Jews

Nov. 15 2017

Ancient Roman astrologers connected each day of the week with a heavenly body; hence Saturn corresponds to Saturday and was associated with the Jews, for whom the seventh day was holy. In Hebrew, as in English, the association is acknowledged in the planet’s name: Shabb’tai. Shlomo Sela explains the symbolic implications of this link:

Greek and Arab astrology . . . considered Saturn to be the most malignant of the seven “planets” [a category that included the sun and moon]; and thus the Jews, astrologically governed by Saturn, were considered to be contaminated by the planet’s wicked nature.

Abraham Ibn Ezra (ca.1089–1161) is the first Jewish thinker to deal with the problematic link among Saturn, Saturday, and the Jews. He addresses the astrological association throughout his writings, both scientific and nonscientific. He removes the sting of this embarrassing linkage by stressing that Saturn is actually conducive to a Jew’s religious faith. In his long commentary on Exodus 20:13, Ibn Ezra associates Saturn with the fourth commandment—“remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”—and explains that this correspondence allows the Jews, by not occupying themselves with everyday matters but devoting themselves solely to the fear of God on this day, to protect themselves from Saturn’s baneful influence and also to improve the quality of their religious belief.

Read more at Herbert D. Katz Center

More about: Abraham ibn Ezra, Ancient Rome, Astrology, History & Ideas

In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Can Learn from Ronald Reagan

When Ronald Reagan arrived at the White House in 1981, the consensus was that, with regard to the Soviet Union, two responsible policy choices presented themselves: détente, or a return to the Truman-era policy of containment. Reagan, however, insisted that the USSR’s influence could not just be checked but rolled back, and without massive bloodshed. A decade later, the Soviet empire collapsed entirely. In crafting a policy toward the Islamic Republic today, David Ignatius urges the current president to draw on Reagan’s success:

A serious strategy to roll back Iran would begin with Syria. The U.S. would maintain the strong military position it has established east of the Euphrates and enhance its garrison at Tanf and other points in southern Syria. Trump’s public comments suggest, however, that he wants to pull these troops out, the sooner the better. This would all but assure continued Iranian power in Syria.

Iraq is another key pressure point. The victory of militant Iraqi nationalist Moqtada al-Sadr in [last week’s] elections should worry Tehran as much as Washington. Sadr has quietly developed good relations with Saudi Arabia, and his movement may offer the best chance of maintaining an Arab Iraq as opposed to a Persian-dominated one. But again, that’s assuming that Washington is serious about backing the Saudis in checking Iran’s regional ambitions. . . .

The Arabs, [however], want the U.S. (or Israel) to do the fighting this time. That’s a bad idea for America, for many reasons, but the biggest is that there’s no U.S. political support for a war against Iran. . . .

Rolling back an aggressive rival seems impossible, until someone dares to try it.

Read more at RealClear Politics

More about: Cold War, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Foreign policy