Dear Rabbi Bernath,
I’m writing because I feel like I need your help. I want to know if there’s such a thing as being cursed. And, if so, is there a way to lift it?
I don’t want to sound ungrateful for all the blessings in my life, because I truly am. But things have been going really sideways for a few months. I am doing all the things that one is meant to do: exercising, eating right, spending time with friends and family, looking for work, staying focused, giving of myself, calling on my support.
My best friend said she wonders if she is bringing me bad luck and suggested that we don’t talk for a week to see if my luck improves. I said it can’t be her, and wondered if she was afraid that my bad luck is contagious.
I feel brokenhearted and like no matter how determined I am to get back up and start each day fresh, something wants me to stay down. I am crying and afraid. Can you help me? Is there such a thing as a curse? Can this be fixed?
You are not alone. Many people have told me that they have bad luck when it comes to meeting people and the resulting relationships – almost as if they are cursed.
If you take a look at Jewish writings, there’s a very prominent concept called mazel. We all know about mazel tov – it’s usually translated as “congratulations,” but more literally mean “good luck.”
Mazel also means constellation, as in the zodiac. The root of mazel comes from the Hebrew verb meaning “to drip.” The idea is that our good or bad fortune drips down to us from the angelic beings (who are represented in our world by the stars and constellations). This is the root of the ancient art of astrology. So far, this all seems to support the idea of Lady Luck in Jewish thought. But doesn’t this feel a little pagan?
The Talmud, in its commentary on Haman’s use of a lottery to select the date of Purim, mentions that “the Jewish people have no mazel” – we are not subject to the whims of the stars.
In ancient philosophy, the root of paganism (idol worship) is the belief that while one God did indeed create the world, He has better things to do than to actually run it. For that menial work – deciding where the rain will fall, so to speak – they believe that He created a hierarchy of spiritual forces that man could worship and give thanks to. Just like God forgot the world, the pagans forgot the one God.
In the mystical interpretation of Judaism, these spiritual forces do exist as a higher order of creation (but they are not deities). I’m not going to get into the whys in this short article, but most of creation is subject to that hierarchy – what we call luck.
(As to your friend being afraid of you, I hope that’s not the case. Good luck can – and should – be shared.)
In any case, the Talmud’s message is that we are only subject to the whims of luck if we choose to be.
In Jewish belief, we can choose to receive our fortune directly from God Himself, by forging a relationship with Him. We can see the sense in our lives – how the good and the bad are all there to help us and teach us – but it has to start from our actions. We build that relationship with mitzvot.
A good place to start is with mezuzot, as they provide protection that comes directly from God. If you already have them on all of your doorways, bring them to a qualified scribe to check if they’re kosher. If not, let me know and I’ll come put one up for you.
In sum, don’t try to change the luck. If you connect with God authentically, you’ll see the truth in everything.