Yes, folks, despite conventional wisdom, I think you absolutely SHOULD press your luck. Now, I don’t mean you should go running through traffic on a busy street during a blackout wearing a scuba suit, or that you should pick a fight with some angry bikers at a highway rest stop because you didn’t like how one of them was looking at you, or that you should ask for seconds of Cousin Rosie’s world-famous gefilte fish blintzes. I said press your luck – not do something crazy.
Judaism doesn’t believe in luck. We have Mazel. Mazel, for the uninitiated, is not Hebrew for luck. Mazel means planet, and refers to the effect the placement of various planets and stars in the Heavens at the time of one’s birth have on each of us. I know; you figured that astrology was all hocus pocus and was just made up by the tabloids to give us something to read next to the comics, but it’s not.
True astrology has its roots in the fact that everything in the Universe was created by HaShem, so it all works together. The Creator instilled in His great machine the fact that certain things cause other things to happen. I can’t tell you why someone’s sign or natal chart affects them, but the really good astrologers can tell you how.
To me, it makes no difference if someone is a Leprechaun with a Son on Jupiter, or if they’re a Cancer with a Bad Moon rising. The bottom line is, the Universe was created with interconnecting aspects, and Mazel is one way G-d affects people’s lives.
Everyone knows “Mazel Adar Dagim,” the Zodiacal sign for the Hebrew month Adar is Pisces, the fish. The Jewish People are compared to fish, and Adar is known to be “our month,” when we believe we will be more successful in court battles, business dealings, and other undertakings. You know who else knew that? Pharaoh. Yes, when Moshe went to Pharaoh all those thousands of years ago, Pharaoh thought that his time was about to come because Chodesh Nisan was just around the corner.
According to the Aruch HaShulchan (OC 429) He figured Moshe had been able to subdue him with Makkos because the Egyptian’s god, the sheep, wasn’t at full power. When Nisan arrived though, the month of the Zodiacal sign t’leh, or sheep (Aries for those who understand it), Pharaoh was sure he would be victorious. He had to be; it was time for his Mazel!
HaShem turned the tables on Pharaoh by saying, “HaChodesh HaZeh Lachem,” this is your month, and telling Moshe and Aharon that the Mazel of Nisan would work for the Jews just like Mazel Adar. In fact, this wasn’t the first time HaShem had done something like that.
Avraham Avinu told HaShem that he had seen in the stars that he was not destined to bear children. HaShem told him, “Don’t believe everything you read,” then manipulated Jupiter, moved things around, and presto! Avram becomes Avraham and fathers the Jewish People. Though the basic structure and rules are there, nothing is set in stone when it comes to Klal Yisrael.
The Midrash says, “Everyone and everything needs mazel, even the Sefer Torah in the Ark.” The simple understanding of this is that there are often numerous Sifrei Torah in a shul, but not all of them are “lucky” enough to be read from regularly. It was that phrase that struck me as I reached for a chumash one day in shul.
As I stretched my hand out to the neatly arranged row of seforim, deciding which one I would take, I thought about the mazel they each needed to be the chosen one. I ended up picking the one that was slightly forward of the rest of the row, noting it would be the easiest one to take off the shelf. And that’s when it hit me.
Yes, you may need Mazel to find success, but you can “press your luck,” meaning to shove it aside or otherwise move or nudge it, and find ways to help your mazel. This chumash was easily accessible so I chose it. When we want to be picked for a promotion at work, invited for a meal on Shabbos, or chosen as a partner for a project, we have to make sure we’re visible and that we’re the easiest choice to make, one that the decider will find gratifying.
It’s been said that MaZeL is an acronym for Makom – place, Zman – time, and Lashon – speech. If you can be in the right place at the right time and say the right thing, that’s mazel. Well, you may not know what the right time is, but if you put yourself in the right place, when the time comes you’ll already be there!
If you want to become wise, the place to be is surrounded by wise people, Talmidei Chachomim who usually know what to say, and what not to say. That will help your mazel because you’ll learn the power of the tongue, the L of mazel, the final piece of the puzzle.
And, my friends, the time has come. We’re in the month of Nisan now, when HaShem told us that we’d overcome the standard-issue mazel by following His rules. When we make ourselves more accessible, put ourselves in the right environment, and open ourselves to the possibilities of the Universe like the chumash or the sefer Torah in the Aron, we may find ourselves being picked for greatness we had no idea about. We may find goodness and “mazel” chasing after us. Yes, by manipulating our place in space, we can cheat destiny in a way that no one else can.
So go ahead and press your luck, but please, take my advice on the blintzes.
By: Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz
Jonathan Gewirtz is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in publications around the world. He also operates JewishSpeechWriter.com, where you can order a custom-made speech for your next special occasion.
For more information, or to sign up for his weekly Dvar Torah in English, e-mail info@JewishSpeechWriter.com and put Subscribe in the subject.
© 2013 by Jonathan Gewirtz. All rights reserved.