A new approach to understanding Monday’s rare solar eclipse takes a historical look at the event, rejecting the usual “gloom-and-doom” atmosphere surrounding the eclipse and presenting it instead as a positive divine sign and cause for optimism.
On Monday, a full solar eclipse will pass over the American continent from the northwest to the southeast. A truly rare event, it has been 99 years since a total solar eclipse has passed over the entire length and breadth of the continental United States, sparking excitement and speculation about the event’s spiritual purpose.
A mystical book written 130 years ago in Israel prophesied that a lunar eclipse on the eve of the Hebrew month of Elul, as this one is, would precede dire times for “eastern kings”. Rabbi Yosef Berger, a prominent rabbi from Jerusalem, interpreted this as referring to Kim Jong Un of North Korea. Rabbi Pinchas Winston, an end-of-days expert, understood the solar eclipse as signalling an end of an era for America and an end to the Jewish sojourn there.
But another, more optimistic understanding of this stellar event has been offered by the minds behind Root Source, a Jewish online learning platform for non-Jews.
“There is no reason to necessarily interpret this eclipse as a ‘gloom and doom’ event,” Gidon Ariel, co-founder of Root Source told Breaking Israel News. “Understanding natural phenomenon as divine signs is really a matter of perspective, a spiritual matter of seeing the glass half-empty or half-full.”
Root Source recently published an e-book which examines the recent astronomical phenomenon from a Biblical and historical perspective and comes up with an unexpected conclusion.
The book, written by Root Source co-founder Bob O’Dell, investigates whether significant catastrophes have in fact been preceded by solar eclipses. O’Dell begins by examining the single most catastrophic event of this generation: the multiple terror attacks on September 11, 2001. A total solar eclipse did precede that event by three months, but it was visible only in Angola, Africa, seemingly without connection to either the US or the perpetrators.
A total solar eclipse preceded the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, by two and a half months. Again, that eclipse, visible over China, had little seeming relevance to the event. The Great Depression in the US, which began in October 1929, also followed an unrelated total solar eclipse, which took place five months earlier, in Southeast Asia.
O’Dell came to the conclusion that catastrophes can indeed occur without a solar eclipse as a warning.
“We find no clear correlation between eclipses and negative events,” he admits in the book. “What we do find is opportunities to influence the data by cherry-picking the events.”
Pondering the divine import of eclipses is justified since the Bible describes solar phenomenon as accompanying the Messiah.
The sun shall turn into darkness And the moon into blood. But everyone who invokes the name of Hashem shall escape; for there shall be a remnant on Mount Tzion and in Yerushalayim, as Hashem promised. Anyone who invokes Hashem will be among the survivors. Joel 3:4-5
But O’Dell explains that the astronomical phenomenon described by the prophet is not, in fact, an eclipse, in which the moon covers the body of the sun, leaving the corona visible. An eclipse generally lasts a few minutes and is not selective in who it affects. The prophet describes an actual, not merely apparent, change in the sun and the moon, leading to darkness and not merely shade.
Ariel emphasized that eclipses do have spiritual meaning. He compared the return of the sun after the eclipse to a verse in Psalms.
He placed in them a tent for the sun, who is like a groom coming forth from the chamber, like a hero, eager to run his course. Psalms 19:5-6
This approach to astronomical events has its roots in Jewish tradition. Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman, director of Ohr Chadash: New Horizons in Jewish Experience, pointed out that the Talmud states explicitly that eclipses, solar and lunar, are divine signs.
“The sages of the Talmud knew more about nature than we suppose,” Rabbi Trugman told Breaking Israel News. “They knew that the eclipses happen as an inevitable result of natural processes, but they still saw them as signs from God connected to our spiritual condition. It is a sign to us, that we are required to interpret, understand and, at times, to act upon.”
Rabbi Trugman explained the outcome of the sign will necessarily be a combination of God’s will and man’s will.
“The whole world is in God’s hands, and at the same time paradoxically, the whole world is in our hands.”