Has the number of the tribes of Israel anything to do with the universe/stars/planets? Maybe the other way around? Is there anywhere in the Talmud or tradition that talks about this question (not looking for a source in astrology)?

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    There are sources that link each tribe to a month on the Jewish calendar...but that's pretty "astrology adjascent" Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 21:19
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    Duplicate question?
    – Oliver
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 1:17
  • As you may have seen in @Alex's answer, the two correspond. But I want to add a point that doesn't fit in a complete answer. More likely, from a Qabbalistic point of view, there is a common cause. The two correspond not because the future existence of 12 shevatim caused 12 months per solar year which then made it natural to divide the ring of stars over the tropics into 12 constellations. Nor that the 12 mazalos caused the existence of 12 tribes. Rather, there is something 12-ness in the metaphysical underpinnings of the universe that expressed itself in at least those two ways. Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 14:12
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    Possible duplicate of Where do we see the months corresponding to the Shvatim?
    – mbloch
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 3:37

3 Answers 3


Megillah 16b compares the tribes to lights:

It says with regard to Joseph’s remarks to his brothers: “And he comforted them and spoke to their hearts” (Genesis 50:21). Rabbi Binyamin bar Yefet said that Rabbi Elazar said: This teaches that he spoke to them words that are acceptable to the heart, and alleviated their fears. This is what he said: If ten lights could not put out one light, as all of you were unable to do me harm, how can one light put out ten lights?

Sifrei Chachamim on Gen. 50:21 explains that the lights are stars:

[You might ask: Why did Yosef compare them to lights? The answer is:] Because the twelve tribes correspond to the twelve stars which illuminate the whole world. Therefore he mentioned to them “ten lights.”


Berachot 32b

ותאמר ציון עזבני ה' וה' שכחני היינו עזובה היינו שכוחה אמר ר"ל אמרה כנסת ישראל לפני הקב"ה רבש"ע אדם נושא אשה על אשתו ראשונה זוכר מעשה הראשונה אתה עזבתני ושכחתני אמר לה הקב"ה בתי י"ב מזלות בראתי ברקיע ועל כל מזל ומזל בראתי לו שלשים חיל ועל כל חיל וחיל בראתי לו שלשים לגיון ועל כל לגיון ולגיון בראתי לו שלשים רהטון ועל כל רהטון ורהטון בראתי לו שלשים קרטון ועל כל קרטון וקרטון בראתי לו שלשים גסטרא ועל כל גסטרא וגסטרא תליתי בו שלש מאות וששים וחמשה אלפי רבוא כוכבים כנגד ימות החמה וכולן לא בראתי אלא בשבילך ואת אמרת עזבתני ושכחתני התשכח אשה עולה אמר הקב"ה כלום אשכח עולות אילים ופטרי רחמים שהקרבת לפני במדבר

But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and the Lord hath forgotten me. Is not 'forsaken' the same as 'forgotten'? Resh Lakish said: The community of Israel said before the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of the Universe, when a man takes a second wife after his first, he still remembers the deeds of the first. Thou hast both forsaken me and forgotten me! The Holy One, blessed be He, answered her: My daughter, twelve constellations have I created in the firmament, and for each constellation I have created thirty hosts, and for each host I have created thirty legions, and for each legion I have created thirty cohorts, and for each cohort I have created thirty maniples, and for each maniple I have created thirty camps, and to each camp I have attached three hundred and sixty-five thousands of myriads of stars, corresponding to the days of the solar year, and all of them I have created only for thy sake, and thou sayest, Thou hast forgotten me and forsaken me! Can a woman forsake her sucking child ['ullah]? Said the Holy One, blessed be He: Can I possibly forget the burn-offerings ['olah] of rams and the firstborn of animals that thou didst offer to Me in the wilderness?

(Soncino translation, my emphasis)

The Shita Mekubetzet there states:

שנים עשר מזלות בראתי בעולם כנגד שנים עשר שבטים וכו

"Twelve constellations have I created in the firmament" – opposite the twelve tribes.


Joseph's brothers, who eventually fathered tribes, are compared to stars in Genesis 37:9–10.

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