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May 20, 1988 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-05-20

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PURELY COMMENTARY

Maimonides Had A Lesson For Our Time On Astrology

astrology in Israel;" and it is
said that God made Abraham "a
prophet, not an astrologer."

PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

T

Editor Emeritus

With the mazel so interlinked with
the astrological matters, there is an ad-
dendum in the Rosten interpretations
about the word and its application to
popular Jewish usage. Here is the
Rosten interpretation of the popular
salute:

he Holy One forbade astrolo-
gy in Israel

— Genesis Rabah.

Israel has no mazal (tutelary
planet; lucky star.

— Talmud Sabbath.
Ronald and Nancy Reagan have
been injected by Donald Regan into
much more than a dispute over
astrology. They are now the virtual in-
stigators of a scholarly discussion over
a matter that has always been judged
either as a "science" or a "disease."
For antagonists as well as
defenders, the accumulated lessons pro-
vide the necessary knowledge of what
has become an international dispute.
The most condemning view of
astrology was pronounced by Moses
Maimonides, one the 12th Century
Jewish scholars, physician and
talmudic commentator who expressed
hostility to it by declaring, "Astrology
is a disease, not a science."
In the present dispute, Maimonides
must be quoted. He declared:

Do not believe the
astrologers . . . our Torah (holds)
that a man's conduct is in his
own hands, that no external
compulsion prevents a man
from being virtuous or vicious —
except as he may be so con-
stituted, by nature, and finds it
easy or hard to do a certain
thing. But that a man must do,
or refrain from doing,
something (because of the stars)
is entirely untrue . . . Astrology

Nonetheless, Jews continue
to utter "Mazel Tov!" The super-
natural or divinational aspects
are forgotten (just as "God be
with you" became "good-bye"),
and mazel has become simply
"luck," "Mazel tov!", "Con-
gratulations."

Moses Maimonides

is a disease, not a science. All
sorts of superstitions thrive
under its shadow. Only fools
and charlatans lend value to it.
(Maimonides, Hilhoth Tshuvah
(Laws of Repentance)
Leo Rosten, in his Treasury of
Jewish Quotations and important views

of Jewish ideas, has a definition based
on the scriptural as well as the modern
viewpoints. He provides this valued
summation of compiled viewpoints on
a subject that now monopolizes discus-
sions based on the accusatory involving
President and Mrs. Reagan:

The ancient Hebrews, like

Nancy Reagan

the Babylonians, Egyptians, and
Greeks, were impressed by
astrology. In the Bible, the
Hebrew word mazel referred to
a planet or a constellation of the
zodiac, and the word was invok-
ed when "fate" was involved.
Later, talmudic sages sternly
warned the Jews to eschew
soothsaying and diviners.
Perplexed believing Jews had
a hard time knowing what to
think: The Bible, after all, talks
of the "signs of heaven" —
Jeremiah, for instance, and
Isaiah. But the Midrash teaches:
"The Holy One forbade

Important Jewish conceptual ideas
and their terminology nearly always de-
mand resort to the famous very
valuable volume Jewish Concepts by
the late Dr. Philip Birnbaum. His com-
ments on astrology are accompanied
also under the Hebrew of the word:
Itztagninut.
Rabbi Birnbaum provides this
definition of the term:

The belief that planets and
stars influence the fate of man
stems from ancient Babylonia.
The prophets attacked it as
futile and idolatrous. The
talmudic expression ain mazel
l'Israel signifies that Israel's fate
depends on no planet but rather
on divine providence. (Shabbath
156a) .. .
However, in spite of the
Halachah, which regards prac-

Continued on Page 40

David A. Brown, Gained National Fame In Philanthropy

I

n The Year After the Riots (WSU
Press), which was given serious
concern on this page last week,
scholarly author Prof. Naomi Cohen
provided a record of prejudice against
Jews in the 1920s and 1930s and
divisiveness among Jews in matters in-

David A. Brown

2

FRIDAY, MAY 20, 1988

volving Zionism and the Jewish Yishuv
of Palestine that preceded the rebirth
of the state of Israel. Her splendidly
researched book is an indictment of the
attitudes of unfairnesss and distortion
of facts especially relating to the events
that included pogroms by Arabs against
Jews in Palestine and especially in the
Jerusalem area, and the massacre of 67
students in the Hebron yeshiva and the
wounding of hundreds more.
Prof. Cohen's book rendered another
service. It recorded the sense of outrage
caused by the related massacres and
told about an important relief effort
that was conducted to help the families
who survived the inhuman slaughter.
The more than $2 million that was rais-
ed was the result of philanthropic sup-
port secured under the leadership of the
prominent Detroitor David A. Brown.
The prominent Jews who assisted in
that task were listed in the facts quoted
from A Year After the Riots (in Hebron)
in the article about this book on this
page. A personal note pointed out that,
except for the book reviewed, there was
little trace of that important philan-
thropic success whether in Brown
biographies or available philanthropic
records. That was to be judged as a
serious fault in history-making and an
injustice to the eminence of the man

who directed the fund-raising relief
movement. Such an oversight is also an
unfairness to Detroit history. Therefore
this method of correcting the failures by
giving due posthumous credit to the
personality of David A. Brown.

The latest encyclopedic Jewish ac-
complishment, Encyclopedia Judaica,
includes a brief item about him. There
is a much longer biographical sketch in
the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia.
Neither mentions the successful cam-
paign conducted by Brown to aid the
Hebron sufferers. Nevertheless, the
Universal's copy should not be overlook-
ed. It provides the following facts:

Brown, David Abraham, in-
dustrialist and communal
worker, b. Edinburgh, Scotland,
1875. He came to the United
States as a child of five, and liv-
ed at first in Detroit, Mich.
Beginning in business in 1896,
he expanded his enterprises un-
til they included the General
Necessities Corp. which at one
time had as many as twenty sub-
sidiaries. Later he helped found
the Broadway National Bank
and Trust Ca and the Broadway
National Co. (1929-30). From 1930

to 1935 he published The
American Hebrew.
Brown devoted considerable
time to civic and social causes.
He was for 14 years chairman of
the membership committee of
the Detroit Young Men's Chris-
tian Association, director-
general of the United War Work
Campaign in Michigan, director
of the Red Cross Roll in Detroit
(1919) and director-general of the
first community fund in Detroit
(1918).
In 1917 he directed the New
York section of the campaign for
the relief of Jewish victims of
the war, and in 1921 he was
made national chairman of the
campaign of the Joint Distribu-
tion Committee to raise $14
million for the Jews of Europe
and Palestine. In 1922 he was
one of a commission to in-
vestigate the economic status of
European Jewry, and in 1924, he
toured the United States and
Canada in behalf of the
Palestine Foundation Fund.
Following a trip made to
Russia in 1925, to investigate the
possibility of settling the Jews

Continued on Page 40

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