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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Aquarius the Water-Bearer in Jewish Art

Human imagery in Jewish art wasn't as "assur" as some might think. Depictions of "D'li" - the water bucket, the symbol of the zodiac sign of Aquarius, often featured the water-bearer himself in human form. 

The medieval commentator Abraham Ibn Ezra tells us: "Aquarius rules over Israel," not only in his long commentary on Exodus but in his "Sefer ha-Olam" as well. Ibn Ezra reminds us the Talmudic maxim "Ain Mazal l'Yisrael" ("there is no constellation that rules over Israel") applies only when Israel is keeping every jot and tittle of the Torah. But when has that ever happened? When Israel (corporately) doesn't keep the Torah, Israel is just as subject to the celestial influences as all the other nations.

Pictured: Aquarius from the mosaic floor of Hammat Tiberias synagogue, 4th Century. 

Depiction of Aquarius from a Megillat Esther, Italian, 18th Century. 

Image of the Water-Bearer, Aquarius, from a mahzor for the three festivals, Vilna, 1844,

and "Aquarius" from the Sefer Evronot, illuminated manuscript by Asher ben Shemuel Cohen, Frankfurt-am-Main, 1624.

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