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What Can I Do about My Bad Luck?

What Can I Do about My Bad Luck?

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Question:

Is it possible for someone to have bad luck? My grandmother used to say about such people that they have "no mazel." I am a college graduate, a learned man, but cannot seem to make any money.

Answer:

The word "mazel" is derived from the Hebrew verb "nozel" which means to flow. Mazel is the energy which flows to us from Above, and thus we often wish each other "mazel tov," which really means, "may you have a flow of positive energy."

Mazel affects every area in life. One person has mazel with his children, one has mazel in his looks, one has mazel when it comes to health, one when it comes to making money. One person has mazel with her friends, one with parents-in-law, one with great spouses for their children. One has mazel in his job, one has mazel with his bosses, one in making investments. One has mazel with her plants (a "green thumb") and one with scrabble. The list is endless.

So I'd like to make two points:

1) As you can see, mazel affects innumerable areas in a person's life. A person can have bad mazel in a specific area—but great mazel in many others. If someone has great mazel when it comes to making money, but no mazel at all with children, spouse, health, etc.—would you say he is a truly fortunate person, just because he is financially successful? What about a brilliant person in an unhappy marriage? The friendless millionaire? You write that you don't have good mazel financially—but do you have mazel in other areas of life? Nobody has good mazel in everything! And mazel with money is of far less importance than mazel in many other areas in life.

2) Mazel does not occur in a vacuum. We believe that every year on Rosh Hashanah it is decreed in Heaven what a person will earn during the coming year. That doesn't mean that a person can sit with folded hands a whole year, and say, "well, I don't have to do anything, whatever is decreed for me will just come to me." A check will not come flying in through the window. A person must make a "vessel" for the mazel, for G‑d's blessing. The vessel is hard (and honest) work, and prayer that the efforts be blessed from Above. Similarly, we pray that we should have good mazel with our children, while simultaneously working hard to be good parents and directing them in the proper way.

So instead of focusing on the presence or absence of mazel in your life, focus on doing whatever is in your ability to make a living. Make sure to pray properly three times a day to G‑d—the source of all wealth; and give charity to the best of your ability, because that is the best vehicle for financial mazel. And then stop worrying, because our livelihood is in G‑d's hands.

Chaya Sarah Silberberg serves as the rebbetzin of the Bais Chabad Torah Center in West Bloomfield, Michigan, since 1975. She also counsels, lectures, writes, and responds for Chabad.org’s Ask the Rabbi service.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Alan G. Ormond Beach, Fl. April 25, 2017

My career choices, heath and mind are fine, I'm speaking about "Stupid stuff", like sitting on a plane and watching the baggage handlers load everyone's luggage, except that my luggage is still lying on the ground as we were ready for take-off!
Or buying an auto part only to find out after installation that it was defective (More than a dozen times in the past 20 years. Lasik surgery: Sitting in a waiting room with 20 other people and during recovery, finding out that only "I", needed to have it re-done because the Doctor made a mistake (But all the other patients were Fine!). Getting a speeding ticket and the officer's radar gun misread my speed which was deflected by the car that passed me at a high rate of speed! I was born on the 2nd day of the month, the # 2 has always been bad luck for me. However, #13 has always been lucky. My situation is almost funny! Reply

G.B. Boston April 6, 2017

I have felt very victimized as well by bad luck etc. But when I analyze things, I realize that some of it was in fact my fault for poor decisions such as staying in certain relationships for too long that did not serve me, not being proactive or focused enough with my career goals, making some decisions impulsively, and being too concerned with other peoples' expectations of me and not trusting my own gut enough. Yes, in some areas I've just had plain old bad luck like everyone has in some area. But life has an ebb and flow to it. My health and appearance were not so good for my teens and 20s which as a female was traumatic but now in my early 30s I am fitter, trimmer, and paradoxically younger looking than a decade back. I used to be very successful in my academic and professional life and have now been unemployed for two years. You never know what G-D has in store for people. The happy looking couples may divorce ten years later and the rich may lose their fortunes. Reply

Anonymous USA May 31, 2016

God certainly punishes us in many different ways Unfortunately. Reply

tammy May 31, 2016

Without love and passion there is only lonliness and madness (confusion) Reply

Anonymous Teaneck May 29, 2016

I'd like to add a different dimension to this conversation. In much of my reading, I read that the important thing between people and G-d is the relationship. But how can one continue a relationship with someone when they feel as they are being abused by that being? I hope I'm not sounding like an upstart, but I am so deeply hurting that I am writing this wanting to be convinced that I am wrong, and that despite all my bad luck, G-d doesn't despise me. It just seems that every day, despite my accepting one bad thing, the next thing pops up. I think, and I'm not saying this facetiously, that a person has to be a malach to be able to hold onto a relationship with someone that does this to a person. A person has to be above human. Like I said, I'd like to be convinced that my thinking is wrong. Reply

Anonymous Teaneck May 27, 2016

Shoshana in Jerusalem Hello. I'm not asking this with any impudence intended, but I wonder if you have had to deal with successive bad things in your life. Once I was at the home of a person who has had a lot of good in her life and a lot of bad too. A guest of her's, a new ba'al teshuvah was waxing eloquent about how wonderful Judaism is and how Hashem takes care of everyone. I was at this person's house because something very bad was going on in my life at the time. This wise woman said to everyone: "It's easy to think like that when your life is good. But when it's bad, it's just not possible." I would like to hear people who have been beaten down time and time again and still be able to feel that Hashem takes care of them. I know there are people like that. I can't do it. I'd feel like I'm lying to myself if I did. I believe in G-d, but not that He cares one whit about me. Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem May 24, 2016

There is no ramdomness It is obvious that if a person misses a plane that crashes it is because G-d wants him to live. Everything is directed from Above. One time I got a bus by "mistake" on the wrong side of the street. After a few stops I realized that I was going in the "wrong" direction, hopped off,and who did I see? Two women that I had shared a cab with the week before and payed them 10 shekel too little. I didn't know their names or addresses, had no way of paying them back, but H-shem (G-d), in His infinite goodness, directed me to the exact bus stop at the exact time they would be there, and I was able to return the money.

We look before we cross the street because we are commanded to take care of ourselves and also because it is forbidden to rely on miracles.

One answer to the suffering of the good in this temporary world is
that they receive their reward in the Next World, which is forever.
And the bad people, if they have done some good here, receive payment here and nothing There.

Reply

Anonymous Teaneck May 23, 2016

I also believe that G-d exists. What I don't quite get, and what hurts me so much, is why He would do things to people that make people turn away from Him. If He wants us to daven to Him, to live life the way He wants us to, why would He confuse us so much? If we had a mother or father or sibling or friend who did that to us and hurt us so deeply, we'd walk away. And those are beings that we can see and talk to. I think that when people are very hurt, over and over again, they simply can't think like: "it's okay that this is happening. I just don't know the full story." Maybe once, maybe even twice, but not numerous times. At least that is the way that I am wired. I'm very glad for this blog. Reply

Phil Fairlawn May 20, 2016

My 2 cents.. I believe God exists. I beleive we are held accountable for the lives we live. This is my belief as a Jew. Yet, I do not believe God controls everything that happens in life. I beleive there is randomness. Why does a person miss a flight that crashes? We feel pain when a life ends and joy when a life begins. People that believe your life is predetermined still look both ways when they cross the street. God gave us different emotions to deal with how complex life can be. No one lives forever..why bad things happen to good people..and the questions we all have... I hope God will explain when our time here is done... Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem May 17, 2016

to Alan Greenberg I am so sorry to hear about these tragedies in your life. I think you should find a really great rabbi, a true sage, with time and compassion, to answer your questions. The truth is that when you get to heaven everything will be so clear that you will not have any more questions at all, but you do need answers now, while you
are still in this world.
Have you ever seen a needle point tapestry, a kind of embroidery that women weave? If you view it from the back, it doesn't make any sense at all. Threads going in every direction, knots all over the place, ends cut off. One big confusion. But turn it over and you see a beautiful picture.

Life is sometimes very hard to understand because we don't see the
whole picture, we can't yet see the other side. And it's very painful. I hope you will find help and peace. Reply

Anonymous Fairlawn April 8, 2016

To Alan: I am with you with those questions and they are in a sense torturing me. I so identify with your question about your mother. Probably this message thread is supposed to give support to people, but the only support I can give is to agree with your thinking. People try to tell me so many different ways to think, yet it always comes down to that bad people prosper and good people get punished. I wish that I could hear someone give me an answer that would resonate with me, but as of now, nothing helps. Reply

Alan Greenberg Florida April 7, 2016

Luck, or lack of... If I make it to heaven I have some important questions to ask,
1- Why would a woman like my mother sacrifice everything for her children, plus do all the right things in life get run down in the street and killed, like a dog.
2- Why would my brother who has never had an enemy, never drank, smoked or did drugs (Also a good father and Husband) get Cancer & die in one painful year... At age 51. Reply

Tova Fairlawn April 3, 2016

To Jerson It is so ironic that you posted this. I have just experienced a severe disappointment that has made me say I am done with believing what I have been taught about God and religion. I have been told time and again what a "very good person" I am and how can I possibly be so good? I really did believe all I was taught-that God is compassionate and that if you do good your life will be good. I see now that what I was taught was just not true. It's all very random. Praying doesn't help. Doing good doesn't help. Nothing helps. One just has to get through by doing what is good for oneself and not what is good for others. Those of us who are good people don't get ahead any more than those who are wicked,so we might as well just do what we need to do for ourselves without thinking how it affects others. I see that those types of people really do come out ahead and have much better lives than I do. Good luck to you. Make changes as you see fit-I am doing just that. Reply

jerson orlando, l April 2, 2016

They way I look at life, the wicked people always prosperous and good hearted people always struggle that's why I said to myself life is not fair at all, for example me I believe in God and I try my best to do the right thing,but I always hurt, disappointed, sad Reply

Anonymous Israel December 25, 2015

Hahaha you are completely wrong mazal in Hebrew means luck and nozel has nothing to do with it it's a completely different word... Please make sure you post correct things Reply

Anonymous New Jersey December 16, 2015

To Anonymous on December 8th I really do know what you mean. For a long time I tried to be positive. Then I became very angry. At this point I think that there is simply nothing that can be done. G-d does some things that seem very strange to me, and it makes me feel that He does not want me to think He cares, so I don't. I don't get why G-d would do things to make people so sad. If He created us people in a way that not understanding His ways will make us angry, or depressed, or sad, or apathetic, then how can He expect anything but those reactions? Asking Rabbis doesn't help at all. They don't really want to answer questions such as these; or maybe they just can't.
There are people who can rise above their terrible lives, or terrible events that occur in their lives. I have ideas of why they can do that, but I think that's for another time. In the meantime, I hope you can find some peace. Reply

Anonymous December 8, 2015

For the past 5 years I have tried to be positive and believed that good luck will come my way however it is just getting worse. I just feel that I am falling into a bottomless pit and there's no way back up. Reply

Alan Greenberg Florida November 17, 2015

Regarding: Bad luck I'm Still looking for an answer but I did have something of interest pointed out to be. I was born in October and am a Libra (I never really believed in astronomy). But... It seems that my sign shows a scale and as I think back into my past situations I see that some times I have a run of very bad luck and then down the road I have a sign of very good luck (For example, offset my previous financial loss (Not gambling). It's not really a Jewish way of looking at things but very interesting in my situation, wouldn't you agree? Reply

Jim November 16, 2015

I am so angry, yes I lived through a heart attack and Quadruple bypass. Then discovered my carotid was so clogged I should have had a stroke. Instead of going on disability I got well and went back to the job a hate and I mean hate! Now I'm stuck and miserable. The only saving grace I'm blessed with a great living wife. Yet wish I died from that heart attack! Reply

Odysseus September 20, 2014

Fools have all the good luck. Reply