The Torah seems to have many examples where astrology is deemed real. (such as the astrology predictions that Moshe would be struck by water which made Paraoh throw the Jewish males in the Nile river. Or the midrash that says Avraham could see through astrology that he would not have children.)

What does Judaism say about the efficacy of astrology? Do Jews believe that astrology is real, or that it is just a bunch of coincidences?

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    "The official Torah position" what does that mean? – Double AA Jul 12 '13 at 8:29
  • the majority opinion from the reliable sources – ray Jul 12 '13 at 8:38
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    That's quite a non traditional definition – Double AA Jul 12 '13 at 12:07
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    @msh210...he says pretty clearly that the Torah apparently deems it real, not that the Torah says so definitively. – Yirmeyahu Jul 12 '13 at 20:54
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    @DoubleAA, ado you take issue that there is an "official Torah position" on anything and if not what is the problem if the questioner asks if ther is such a position on this topic? – Yirmeyahu Jul 12 '13 at 20:56

Definitely it is real. See Masheches Shabbas 156: go through the whole gemara there, starting with where it says "Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi". It indicates that the day and time of someone's birth can affect him, though that there is a dispute as to whether Israel is affected by it.

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    Just because it is in the gamoro doesn't mean it is really that way. – MoriDowidhYa3aqov Jul 14 '13 at 2:03
  • Please explain,don't know what you mean? – sam Jul 14 '13 at 2:32
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    rambam says that in the gamoro's times people followed the sciences and the ideas of the time. astrology was a big part in that time period. however, it does not mean that astrology is true. – MoriDowidhYa3aqov Jul 14 '13 at 4:45
  • Much like people in the Rambam's time following him, because that was the informant they had, even though he wasn't necessarily right. – user6591 Apr 26 '15 at 4:19
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    Sam, it is problematic to say "definitely" about subjects that are in dispute, especially when it comes to matters of believe. As the Rambam said in his commentary on the Mishna on Senhedrin 10:1, if we see that there are two opinions amongst our sages we cannot say that one is "definitely" correct and that the other one is wrong or heretic. We can only say with whom we agree and why, but we can't force our views onto others and claim that they are the only correct opinion. – yechezkel Apr 27 '15 at 11:25

See Does the Zodiac really have influence on our lives? where the view of the Rambam in his letter on astrology is discussed. To summarize, Rambam is of the opinion that astrology is ineffective and that sages who appear to have believed in it were either mistaken or speaking non-literally.

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Like any serious question in Judaism, there is a Machloket. The Gmara clearly believes in astrology and that many thing are an affect of a mans Mazal.

אמר רבא חיי בני ומזוני לא בזכותא תליא מילתא אלא במזלא תליא מילתא

(Moed Katan 28a) This include חיי בני ומזוני, how many years a man will live, how many children will he have, and how much money. Yet there is a Machloket (shabbat 156a) if יש מזל לישראל or not.

Most of the Rishonim and Achronim agree that astrology is an integral part of Judiasm. But they disagree if אין מזל לישראל means that they are completely unaffected by astrology or rather thay too are affected, but that they can use prayer to change their Mazal. See Abarbanels commentary on Deut. 4. And the Mepharshim on shabbat 156a-b.

As with many mystic believes, the Rambam did not believe or support the idea of astrology in Judaism. In a famous letter to the sages of מארשילייא the Rambam called astrology "beliefs of the fools" and claimed that we have no obligation to believe in it, since only a Daat Yechid speaks of it in the Gmara, and philosophy (science) has proven it to be nothing but superstition. Obviously, the Rambam was highly criticized for this, but never the less it is still a legitimate view.

When it comes to Halacha, it seems that the rule is that astrology is real, and that יש מזל לישראל. for an example to this, the Halacha is that a woman that two of her husbands died (even if not from a natural cause) cannot remarry since we say that her Mazal caused her husband's to die. Here is the Pask of a Biet Deen in Israel.

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  • re a woman whose two husbands have died, it is interesting to note that this is a dispute in the gemara itself (Yevamot 64b), between Rav Huna (natural) and Rav Ashi (mazal), with the ramifications you mentioned. While mazal is the view of most poskim, the Rambam and Tur say like Rav Huna in this matter. he.wikisource.org/wiki/… – josh waxman Apr 27 '15 at 11:13
  • @josh waxman true, that's why I included the Psak Biet Deen to show what happened in an actual real situation. – yechezkel Apr 27 '15 at 11:14
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    See also the Aruch Hashulchan, who says in actual pesak, halacha lemaaseh: "And in my opinion, this is astounding. For forfend, chas veshalom, to say that we are under the influence of the constellations." parsha.blogspot.com/2008/06/… – josh waxman Apr 27 '15 at 11:32
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    @josh waxman from the Aruch haShulchan you linked you can see that he claims that Israel isn't under the control of the Mazal אין מזל לישראל, but that the other nations are. The Rambam was (as far as I know) the only one to claim that the entire idea of astrology is false. – yechezkel Apr 27 '15 at 11:39
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    fair enough re Aruch Hashulchan. (though i think it quite possible that Chazal themselves were not monolithic in belief in astrology - thus many disputes.) and halacha might well follow metzius, rather than following legal precedent established by those who mistakenly believed in astrology. Such that if a posek is convinced (correctly) astrology is nonsense, even without Rambam, the halacha is to follow reality. – josh waxman Apr 27 '15 at 11:51

The Talmud, Shabbos 156b, brings three stories that illustrate that while a Jew's future may be written in the stars, prayer (see Rashi) and good deeds can overpower their "destiny".

Story 1 (Soncino Translation):

From Samuel too [we learn that] Israel is immune from planetary influence. For Samuel and Ablat were sitting, while certain people were going to a lake. Said Ablat to Samuel: 'That man is going but will not return, [for] a snake will bite him and he will die.' 'If he is an Israelite,' replied Samuel. 'he will go and return.' While they were sitting he went and returned. [Thereupon] Ablat arose and threw off his [the man's] knapsack, [and] found a snake therein cut up and lying in two pieces — Said Samuel to him, 'What did you do?' 'Every day we pooled our bread and ate it; but to-day one of us had no bread, and he was ashamed. Said I to them, "I will go and collect [the bread]". When I came to him, I pretended to take [bread] from him, so that he should not be ashamed.' 'You have done a good deed,' said he to him. Then Samuel went out and lectured: But charity delivereth from death; and [this does not mean] from an unnatural death, but from death itself.

Story 2:

From R. Akiba too [we learn that] Israel is free from planetary influence. For R. Akiba had a daughter. Now, astrologers told him, On the day she enters the bridal chamber a snake will bite her and she will die. He was very worried about this. On that day [of her marriage] she took a brooch [and] stuck it into the wall and by chance it penetrated [sank] into the eye of a serpent. The following morning, when she took it out, the snake came trailing after it. 'What did you do?' her father asked her. 'A poor man came to our door in the evening.' she replied, 'and everybody was busy at the banquet, and there was none to attend to him. So I took the portion which was given to me and gave it to him. 'You have done a good deed,' said he to her. Thereupon R. Akiba went out and lectured: 'But charity delivereth from death': and not [merely] from an unnatural death, but from death itself.

Story 3:

From R. Nahman b. Isaac too [we learn that] Israel is free from planetary influence. For R. Nahman b. Isaac's mother was told by astrologers, Your son will be a thief. [So] she did not let him [be] bareheaded, saying to him, 'Cover your head so that the fear of heaven may be upon you, and pray [for mercy]'. Now, he did not know why she spoke that to him. One day he was sitting and studying under a palm tree; temptation overcame him, he climbed up and bit off a cluster [of dates] with his teeth

Not that the Talmud on the previous folio (Shabbos 156a) Records a disagreement between the sages regarding this, and verses are used as proof.

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