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What Does “Mazel Tov” Mean?

What Does “Mazel Tov” Mean?



I always thought Mazel Tov meant “congratulations.” I recently heard that it actually means “good luck.” But I thought Jews don’t believe in luck . . . ?


Your confusion is understandable. The Talmud—the ancient encyclopedia of Jewish wisdom—seems to contradict itself on the issue. In one place it states, “On your birthday, your mazel is strong.” Elsewhere the Talmud reports, “The Jewish people are not subject to mazel”!

The word mazel literally means “a drip from above.” Mazel can have different connotations depending on its context, but they are all connected to this basic definition—something trickling down from above.

The signs of the zodiac are called mazalot. Jewish tradition sees the constellations on high as directing the destiny of individuals and nations down below. Thus mazel is the influence dripping down from the stars. (Over the years, bad or good mazel came to mean “luck” more than “destiny.”) When the Talmud says that we are not subject to mazel, it means that we are not limited to our destiny; rather, our own actions determine our fate.

There is another meaning of the word mazel that is more relevant to the phrase Mazel Tov. Mazel is the term used in Jewish mysticism to describe the root of the soul. The mystics say that only a ray of our soul actually inhabits our body. The main part of the soul, our mazel, remains above, shining down on us from a distance.

Have you ever experienced a sense of spontaneous intuition, where out of the blue you suddenly feel at peace with yourself and the universe? Or a sudden flash of inspiration that makes you see life in a new light? Occasionally we may receive an extra flux of energy from our soul above. It can happen at any time, but is most common at a time of celebration—a birth, birthday, brit, bar/bat mitzvah or wedding. It is especially at these times of joy that we are able to see beyond the mundane and the petty, and to sense the deeper truths of life.

When we tell someone Mazel Tov, we are giving them a blessing: May this drip of inspiration from your soul above not dissipate, but rather have a positive and lasting effect, that from this event onwards you should live your life with higher consciousness. You should be aware of the blessings in your life, and be ready to receive more and more.

In other words: Good Mazel!

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Jan December 22, 2017

This is beautifully written! I really connected with the explanation. Reply

Anonymous LA August 20, 2017

The Real meaning mazel tov means good luck
mazal = luck
tov = good
it's Not connected to that jews belive in luck or not it's more like in events for example birthday, Marriage and stuff like that... Reply

Me August 2, 2017

Our destiny is determined by the life we lived that only God allows in the first place obediently and soley for his glory! Reply

Anonymous Swampscott July 11, 2017

How do you answer "Mazel Tov"? Reply

Renee Shaeffer Phoenix June 2, 2017

Thank you for this insightful message of love. Especially that we each have control of our destiny through our higher consciousness and our actions based on thoughtfulness. Often I coast instead of actively reaching out to others with kind deeds. I can actively help make the world a better place and displace dispair with kindness. Being aware of our source and actively connecting with it with an agenda for strengthening kindness directs our fate. Thank you again, Aron Moss. Reply

James Black Florida February 3, 2017

I also heard that, at a Jewish wedding and glass is broken, it could mean, along with great joy, remember as the glass is smashed, that all good earthly joys end and that the couple and all present, keep their eyes on the One who gives and takes away....blessed be the Name of the Lord.(Job?)In short, be thankful but remember, there is One who wants you to keep perspective on all earthly joys. Reply

george cohen Pembroke Pines September 23, 2017
in response to James Black:

Mr. Black, I prefer much the following interp. of breaking the glass at a wedding:
Remember, this union could/can be broken with the mouth and and careless words. Hence, the breaking of the fragile glass. George Cohen. Reply

Cheryl New Jersey May 13, 2016

Mazel Tov My mother, may she rest in peace, frequently said Mazel Tov. She always felt that any good events in our lives & those of others were a precious gift &'should be acknowledged. I'm keeping that tradition in my family also. Reply

Anonymous Dom. Rep. May 12, 2016

Mazel Tov Thank you so much! Really enjoyed the read as it gave me more beautiful insight and understanding into this expression which I have heard and used throughout my life (but not so much with the awareness of its deeper significance.) Now when I see it, hear it, and use it, it will have even greater meaning! Reply

Tovah South Africa May 12, 2016

How did we stray so far from Torah? Reply

yehoshooah adan denver 80218 May 12, 2016

do you believe in luck, or miracles? is every thing you see happening luck, or a miracle from HaShem? Reply

sunil subba India May 12, 2016

Thanks for the meaning of the word mazal tov which is a term used for interactions on occasions.It seems it helps spiritually as the wish itself makes one positive and merry.I practice saying peace to you and to strangers and even at times praying as this makes you realise that even smiling and wishing makes everyone happy and in turn you also become happy.These aspects it seems also comes under charity. Reply

Hypatia UK May 11, 2016

there is more to luck than just what happens to you
there is also the attitude of the recipient to the variation in fortune
ie do you see the glass as half full or half empty Reply

Jon Awbrey Michigan December 23, 2015

Sounds a bit like grace. Reply

Anonymous May 14, 2015

It's expected, from experience, that the administrators of this site won't permit dissenting opinions and theology, nevertheless I'm giving you an opportunity here to delete truth again...It is quite the space cadet who wills to believe that the soul of a person floats in outerspace above, dripping lasting inspirational effects upon them. The soul (mind, will and emotion) doesn't randomly float around in space. Also, intuition is a part of the Spirit (communication, conscience and intuition). God orchestrates everything, and yes, He will communicate with us. Even father Abraham asked He not destroy Sodom and He agreed, had enough been found to make it worthy; yet He still graciously saved his nephew Lot (ultimately God already knew). It's not our actions, as we don't communicate with God by our actions, but our spirit via His Spirit. I feel sorrow now for those who don't accept the truth but time is growing short for this world, which is passing away, and God has been more than patient. Reply

Pesel August 24, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Wrong. Reply

Per December 19, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

"... opportunity here to delete truth again" Then you bash people for believing in something stupid and then you start talking about how your invisible friend, flying in the sky, is communication with you? Reply

Theresa New Jersey April 16, 2015

I love, love this answer! Beautiful! Reply

Anonymous April 6, 2015

Mazel Tov While etymologically Hebrew, the phrase is Ashkenazi. Don't know about today but historically, Sephardic Jews, Persianate Jews (Iranian, Mountain, Bukharan), Romaniotes and the various Arab Jewish communities (Iraqi, Syrio-Lebanese, Yemeni, Egyptian Karaite, Maghrebi) never used that phrase. Reply

Lori Lyn Lemieux NH March 5, 2015

I will rate this a great
Shalom Reply

Teresa Florida January 14, 2015

That was the best answer to a question I've ever read here! Very informative :). Thank you! Reply

Jubal New Mexico August 13, 2014

Mazel Tov My rebbi explained it this way: "It's kind of like the Hawaiian word 'Aloha.' It can have two meanings, depending upon context. Most of the time, think "A blessing upon you/yours/your house." Other times, well, think "Good Riddance." Reply

Mailani Rivers July 25, 2014

NICE answer! Thank you. :) Reply

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