Daf Yomi Moed Katan 28
Steve Jobs’s fundamentalist grandfather was incensed when he learned of his daughter’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy in Wisconsin. Sending her off to give birth in California, Jobs was fortunate to be adopted by two loving parents who gave him a wonderful upbringing and a good education. While in high school, he was introduced to a neighbour, Steve Wozniak, a computer whiz, and together they later started Apple.
What if Jobs had not been given up for adoption? What if he had not moved to California? What if he’d never met Wozniak? Do we give him too much credit? Maybe Steve Jobs just happened to be in the right place at the right time and if your stars had aligned the way his did, you’d be the CEO of Apple today!
Rava taught: Health, children and livelihood do not depend on merit; rather, they depend on mazal (fate). For Rabbah and Rabbi Chisda were both completely righteous rabbis, indeed each could pray and bring rain! Rabbi Chisda lived to the age of ninety-two, while Rabbah lived to forty. In Rabbi Chisda’s family, they celebrated sixty weddings, but in Rabbah’s family they had sixty deaths. At Rabbi Chisda’s they had more than enough fine flour to feed their pet dogs, while at Rabbah’s they could not even come up with sufficient barley flour for the people.
Here we have two rabbis who were both righteous and yet one had a wonderful life and the other had a pretty miserable sojourn on earth. How’s that possible? Says Rava, it’s all about mazal. For some, the stars are all aligned in their favour, while others are just born into the wrong family and life just seems to pass them by.
So is Rava saying that everything is predetermined? Of course not! He is teaching that destiny is a major factor that we must be aware of. It’s not that merit doesn’t play a part – it most certainly does, we believe in that as a tenet of our faith – but there are other factors, beyond our immediate control. Some people are provided with more opportunity, some with less.
Nevertheless, the word mazal, explains Rabbi Paysach Krohn, consists of the three Hebrew letters, mem, zayin, and lamed, which stand for makom (place), zman (time), and lashon (language). We often attribute success to being in the right place at the right time. But time and place are only two thirds of mazal. The Almighty provides you with opportunity; the question is what do you do with that opportunity?
That, explains Rabbi Krohn, is the third element of mazal. When you find yourself in the right place (makom) at the right time (zman), how do you employ your language (lashon)? What do you say? What do you do? That is the difference between opportunity and success. Many of us have multiple opportunities in life, but how many take advantage of those opportunities by saying or doing the right thing?
You want success in life? The first aspect is merit – use your best efforts physically and spiritually. The second aspect is mazal – while you might not be able to control what opportunities you are given in life, you can control what you make of those opportunities. Grab the opportunities, you will achieve tremendous success!