In parashat Pinchas, the Zohar dwells on issues such as the impregnation of souls (the concept known as "ibur neshamot"), reincarnation and the secrets regarding the sacrifices. In passing is mentioned a common subject in New Age theology and one that interests people to this day - Astrology.

Come and see. Every created being in the world, before the Torah was given to Israel, depended on the influence of the stars, including childbirth, life and livelihood. After the Torah was given to Israel, they were taken out from under the power of the stars…

"Mazal" is the Hebrew word for the stars and constellations and also the modern word for "luck". It is connected with the word "nazal" that means to flow or drip - perhaps your nasal drip has a Hebrew derivation, as does the word nozzle! The concept is that of the influence of the divine "dripping" down through formations of stars that in their changing reflect changes in that influence.

But after the Torah was given to Israel, they were taken out from under the power of the stars and constellations. We learn this from Abraham because in the future his descendants were to receive the letter "hei" from his name Abraham. This "hei" represents the 5 books of the Torah, of which it is said: "These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created [in Hebrew, "beheibaram"] in the day that the Lord G‑d made the earth and the heavens." (Gen. 2:4) He made them with [the letter] hei. It is in the merit of the Torah that the world exists…

The letter hei is the fifth letter in the Hebrew alphabet and therefore has the numerical value 5. Abraham saw in the stars that he would have no children, but that changed after G‑d promised him that a son would be born to him and Sarah. At that time, He also changed his name from Abram to Abraham - adding the letter hei to his name. The number 5 and the letter hei are therefore connected to change of mazal and fertility. The word created, in Hebrew "beheibaram", in the verse can be read as "He made them with (the letter) hei". This shows the connection between creation and the 5 books of the Torah and hints that it is in the merit of the Torah that the world exists. The letter hei also represents the sefira of malchut that contains all the abundance from the higher sefirot and brings their influence into reality.

He said to Abraham: "Because of this letter hei that has been added to your name, the heavens are now in your control and all the stars and constellations that shine in them through [the power of that letter] hei.

The harsh judgments in the sefira of malchut can be "sweetened" by good deeds, Torah learning and mitzvahs. This effect has cosmic ramifications and is the way to control the influence of the stars and constellations - by uniting the final hei in G‑d's name so it receives the influence from the yud, hei and vav. This is the spiritual source of the influence that influences reality through the "natural" affect of the stars.

And not only that, but it is said regarding the letter hei: "Then Joseph said to the people, 'Behold I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh; lo, here [in Hebrew, "hei"] is seed for you" and you shall plant the land." (Gen. 47:23) This means that it is through the letter hei that you will have seed. [And it is also written regarding Abraham] "Your seed will be known as Isaac." (Gen 21:12)

So childbirth, although seemingly determined by astrology, is actually determined by the final letter hei in the name of G‑d. This hei can in turn be influenced by our actions. All those who strive to learn Torah have nullified the...influence of the stars...over themselves…

And because of this, all those who strive to learn Torah have nullified the coercive influence of the stars and constellations over themselves. This applies if he learns in order to observe the commandments of the Torah, but if he doesn't it is as though he didn't make any real effort in learning and then the influence of the stars and constellations are not removed from him.

The Zohar uses the word "aishtadal" to describe the proper way to approach Torah. The literal translation of the word is "to make an effort". It is made up of two Hebrew words: "aish", meaning "fire" and " dal", meaning "poor". The Torah is the wisdom of the Infinite expressed in words. The "poor" mental ability of one who makes an effort to understand it must therefore be matched with an inner "fire" to motivate the learning in an effort to bring it down into the concrete reality of everyday life in performing His commandments. This is totally unlike secular learning that is a purely intellectual pursuit. Because it is only intellectual it doesn't affect the everyday reality of the student. His everyday reality is therefore left under the influence of the stars.

An ignorant person is even more under this influence. They are compared to beasts [because they have no consciousness of the higher reality] as we have learned: "Cursed be he who lies with any kind of beast." (Deut. 27:21) This is because the coercive influence of the stars and constellations has not been nullified from them.

The Talmud discusses the priorities one should have in seeking a match for himself. (Pesachim 49b) It stresses the importance of trying to find the daughter of (among others) a Torah scholar or of a teacher or distributor of charity funds. It stresses the danger of marrying the daughter of an ignoramus and quotes the above verse as a proof text. The message is clear: stay out of trouble in searching for a marriage partner. The more spiritually attuned the prospect's background, the better the future life of the couple will be.

Zohar, parashat Pinchas p.216b; translation and commentary by Simcha-Shmuel Treister

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