Dovid Vigler

Mazal tov — can you change your luck?

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash:

If you’re having a bad day, it couldn’t be worse than these people!

Why do some people have more mazal than others? Is there anything we can do to turn our bad mazal into good mazal?

Melanie Martinez lost five homes to different hurricanes; Roy Sullivan was struck by lightning on seven different occasions, and Violet Jessop was present on three ships that sank, including the Titanic.

Sodeto is a village three-and-half hours northwest of Barcelona, near the border of France. Its four hundred residents are mostly indigent farmers and unemployed construction workers. In December of 2011, the residents of this town collectively bought a lottery ticket for Spain’s largest lottery—El Gordo—and they won a whopping 950 million dollars! All the residents were instantly transformed from rags to riches, except for one single resident—Costis Mitsotakis. It turns out that when making their rounds through the village where everyone chipped in for the lottery ticket, they simply forgot to knock on his door!

Now these are people with some seriously bad luck!

Though many are unsure if fate is a Jewish idea, you might be surprised to discover that the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac—determining our destiny—are actually all rooted in Torah! Whether we’ll live a life of blessing or blight depends entirely on the zodiac signs of our birth and other milestones (Talmud Moed Katan 28)!

Good fortune or destiny in Hebrew is Mazal Tov! The day of your birthday is when your “mazal—good fortune” shines and you are empowered to achieve more than usual. Ancient biblical warriors were aware of this truth and would conscript their soldiers based on their recurring birthdays!

After our forefathers Abram and Sarai struggled with infertility for many years, they changed their names to Avraham and Sarah—thus changing their fate—and soon after conceived their son Yitzchak (Isaac). Our destiny is actually pre-determined before we are even born, as the Talmud (Niddah 16b) states that each person’s wisdom, wealth, and power are all known before he is even born. Even our spouses and real estate acquisitions are pre-determined (Talmud Sotah 2b). The only choices we really have are our ethical and moral choices.

It seems clear that some people are born lucky, while others are not.

It’s perplexing to us, therefore, when the Torah (Devarim 18:10-13) explicitly prohibits us from engaging in any form of fortune-telling, astrology, or horoscopes.

There shall not be found among you anyone who passes his son or daughter through fire, a soothsayer, a diviner of [auspicious] times, one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, a pithom sorcerer, a yido’a sorcerer, or a necromancer.

For whoever does these things is an abomination to the L-rd, and because of these abominations, the L-rd, your G-d is driving them out from before you.

Be wholehearted with the L-rd, your G-d.

If astrology molds our fate, then why would these be prohibited?

The key lies in the unique role that the Jew serves for humanity. Isaiah (43:10) tells us clearly that our job is to serve as witnesses for mankind that things are not as they seem. G-d is always in control and we should never forget Him by placing our trust in any form of divination through which—at one time in our history—He allowed us to interact with Him, the use of these tools, in any case, now being a lost art. But even if it were possible to use such tools today, attempting, as it were, to “see behind the curtain,” to do so would demonstrate a disrespectful lack of faith in Divine Providence.

“You are My witnesses,” says the L-rd, “and My servant whom I chose,” in order that you know and believe Me, and understand that I am He; before Me no god was formed and after Me none shall be.

Our commitment to G-d’s commandments and directives has allowed us to outlive all the other nations that ever walked the face of this Earth. No other factor has consistently been manifested by our people over the thousands of years of our existence to which we can attribute the remarkable feat of our miraculous survival. The prophet Isaiah is thus clarifying our mission to bring consciousness, awareness, and responsibility to mankind as we remind the world of our collective commitment to the Master of the Universe always.

It’s easy to forget about G-d who deliberately hides behind the laws of science and nature. That’s why our job as Jews is to remind the world. Whilst the nations of the world grapple with stars and horoscopes for clues of their destiny, we Jews have a direct line to the CEO, our Father in Heaven. This is why Jews are prohibited to engage in fortune-telling on any level—because we have to go directly to the cause behind it all!

Just like the First Son or Daughter wouldn’t need to turn to the White House Staff or Secret Service to communicate with his father, the US President, The Jewish People—The Chosen People—need not search for clues as to their fate when they can turn to their Father in Heaven directly.

While astrology serves as a fairly accurate guide to what might lay in our destiny (to qualified astrologers, none of which exist today accordion to Torah sources), G-d can and does intervene to change the outcome. So, while the zodiac is real, Jews are not allowed to engage with it, because we go directly to our Father, without any intervening agencies. This is also one of the reasons why we pray to G-d—as we implore Him to intercede with our destiny and change it for the good! By going directly to the top, we have the power to change our Mazal for the good!

Rabbi Akiva’s daughter, Shulamis was once told by star-gazers that she would die on her wedding day. She chose to ignore their predictions as she had often heard from her great father that he who observes the Mitzvos of the holy Torah need fear no evil.

The morning after her wedding, she awoke to find a poisonous snake dead behind her pillow. Horrified, she realized that she had unknowingly killed the snake that was lurking in the wall’s crevice when she stuck her hairpin into the wall the night before. What a wonderful miracle!

“This is indeed a miracle,” Rabbi Akiva said. “Tell me, daughter, what did you do yesterday? There must have been some special Mitzvah that you performed yesterday to have been saved from this.”

“Well, the only thing that I can remember was this. Last night, when everybody was busy with the preparations for my wedding, a poor man came in, but nobody seemed to notice him, so I took my portion of the wedding feast and gave it to him.”

Rabbi Akiva then triumphantly declared “Tzedoko (charity) saves one from certain death,” he exclaimed. (Talmud Shabbos 55b)

While some of us might be born luckier than others, we can’t ever surrender to our predicament, because we can always change our fortune when we ask the Boss directly to do so.

As we prepare for a sweet and successful New Year ahead, instead of investing our extra time and effort in the office, if we spend a little more time in Shul, improving our relationship with the CEO of the Universe, we would be far more assured of a favorable outcome!

Let’s work smarter, not harder!

Rabbi Dovid Vigler
Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens

6100 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418 | 561.624.2223

Instagram @JewishGardens

About the Author
Raised in South Africa and educated in some of the finest Yeshivas in Israel, England, New York, and Australia, Rabbi Dovid Vigler strives to share the beauty and depth of Judaism in a clear, conversational, and down-to-earth manner. Whether in private counseling, relatable sermons, weekly email broadcasts, or in his popular Torah classes on social media, he reaches out to every Jew with unconditional love, patience, and compassion. His inspirational talks and uplifting messages can be found on and
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