was the belief in rabbinic times that the planets had an influence
upon human life; the planet of the day (and even hour) of birth could
influence a person's personality and destiny. Like the other peoples
of antiquity, the Jews interpreted an eclipse as a bad omen, a manifestation
of divine anger.
When the sun is in eclipse, it is a omen for the nations of the world.;
when the moon is in eclipse, it is a bad omen for Israel, because Israel
fixes the calendar (reckons time) by the moon, while the nations of the
world count it by the sun. If the eclipse occurs in the east it is a bad
omen for those who dwell in the east; if its occurs in the west it is
a bad omen for those who dwell in the west; if it occurs in the center
of the heaven it is a bad omen for the whole world.
visage becomes the color of blood [it is a sign that] the sword is about
to befall the world; if it becomes the color of sackcloth (i.e., gray),
the arrows of famine are about to befall the world.
If the eclipse takes place at the sun's setting, the calamity will tarry
in coming; if at its rising, the calamity hastens to come; but some authorities
say the meanings of the signs is to be reversed....
discussion of the pervasive "science" of astrology in the fabric
of medieval life, Joshua Trachtenberg notes the "the usual primitive
interpretation of eclipses and comets as potents of disaster":
"Eclipses of the moon were taken to be especially ominous for the
Jewish people. Eclipses of the sun which occurred on October 26, 1147,
and September 4, 1187, threw German Jewry into consternation; later it
was learned that on these days the German Crusaders had suffered serious
reverses in Palestine."
also Joshua Trachtenberg's article on the auspicious
and ominous phases of the moon as perceived by the medieval Jew.)