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Studying Astronomy – A Mitzvah?

In shabbos 75a: Theres a statement that its mitzva for a person to study the seasons and the constelations. Can you elaborate more on that Gemara? And how should one go about studying this science?


The Mishnah in Avos (3:18) describes studying the tekufos, meaning (in its simple sense) astronomy, as parpara’os lachochmah. This is not considered wisdom itself, a level reserved for Torah wisdom or philosophical inquiry that brings a person to know Hashem, but it is an ‘appertif’ or a spice for wisdom.

The Gemara (Shabbos 75a) writes harshly against those who are able to study astronomy and do not do so, and this is possibly because of the need to make the necessary calculations for knowing the dates of the festivals and the times of the day. Noting the importance of astronomy, the Tosafos Yom Tov (following the Rashbatz) writes that astronomy is not included in the parapa’os of wisdom.

Our calendar is fairly fixed, and there is less urgency to study astronomy today. Yet, it remains a worthy study in knowing how the calendar year works, and also in appreciating the wonder of the celestial bodies.

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