Shlomo Ezagui

Tough Luck and the Ability to Change Fate

The Talmud talks about the predictable behavior of someone born on a particular day of the week or a certain hour of the day. One born on a Wednesday will be wise and radiant. Someone born in the sixth hour of the day under the influence of Mars will be prone to spilling blood.

Pharaoh had the boys thrown in the river because his astrologers informed him that the Jews’ redeemer would die by water. In fact, this prophecy referred to when Moses, to produce water, hit the rock instead of speaking to the rock as God commanded; as a result, he passed away in the wilderness. They were right. Moses’s fate was predetermined.

The Talmud says, “A first wife is predetermined.” Rashi says, regarding a different issue, “Since his flow from above has turned sour, difficulty and hardship are prone to come upon him.” Tough luck?

Rabbi Elazar ben Pedas was extremely poor. On one occasion, after letting out blood (an ancient health remedy), he had nothing to eat to regain strength. He took a clove of garlic and became faint and fell asleep.

The rabbis who visited him saw that while he was sleeping, he was crying and laughing and that a ray of light was radiating from his forehead. When he awoke, they asked him why he had been crying and laughing. He answered, “God was sitting with me, and I asked Him, ‘How much longer will I suffer in poverty?’ God said, ‘Elazar, my son. Would you like me to return the world to its beginning and recreate it so that perhaps you would be born at a time more favorable for livelihood?’

I replied to God that it seemed, despite all this effort of creating the world anew, it would only be “possible” for my life to be better. I then asked God, ‘Which is longer, the life I have already lived or what I still have to live?’ God answered, ‘The life you have already lived.'”

Rabbi Elazar declined the offer, deciding that since he had already lived most of his years, and starting all over again gave him only the possibility of a better lot, it was not worth it.

On the other hand, it is written that a person can change his preordained fate through prayer and good merit. It is written that if a person changes his name or his place of living, this can help change his lot. When God told Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation, Abraham said, “I can see in my star that I am not predestined to have children.” God responded to Abraham (and God did not say what Abraham saw was wrong), “I will move your star over from the west to the east, and then you will be able to have children.”

The granddaddy interpretation of quantum physics is that a person’s (or measuring device) affects one’s reality. We see this in Jewish law in many places. One example is that the new month is positively determined and can only begin when witnesses testify to seeing the new moon and the tribunal decides there is a new moon.

So, does a person influence his condition, or is it all predetermined?

Hillel the Elder was coming along a road, and as he approached his hometown, he heard the sound of screaming in the city. With conviction and certainty, he declared, “I am confident that this [screaming] is not [coming from] within my home.”

The Talmud attributed a verse from Psalms to Hillel’s confidence: “Of evil tidings, he will have no fear; his heart is firm, confident in God” (Psalms 112:7).

The Malbim writes that this sincere (abstract) faith in God (expressed and manifesting itself in some kind of physical activity) changes a person’s fate and fortune for good and increased blessings. 

Yes, God has put a pattern and natural order in place. However, it is also true that when a person strengthens and connects with the One in charge through the observance of God’s commandments, all kinds of changes become possible.

Chapter 136

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is an author and lecturer. "A Spiritual Soul Book" ( & "Maimonides Advice for the 21st Century" ( In 1987, Rabbi Ezagui opened the first Chabad Center in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the first Orthodox Synagogue on the island of Palm Beach, Florida.
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