We read in Deuteronomy 22:8: “When you build a new house, you must place a guard-rail around your roof so that you will not bring blood upon your house should any man fall from the unenclosed roof.”

The Hebrew wording for “should any man fall” is “ki yipol hanofel,” which literally means “should the one who falls fall.” The commentators say that this unusual phrasing implies that this individual—known as ”the one who falls”—was actually destined to fall off a roof and lose his life.

Why should his blood be on my hands?

So the question is, if that person was in fact pre-ordained to fall, why am I at fault just because it happened in my house? Why am I responsible for the fulfillment of his destiny? Why should his blood be on my hands?

Jewish philosophers answer this question by saying that although we definitely believe in destiny—that whatever happens is part of the Almighty’s vast eternal plan—nonetheless, every individual has an obligation to do his or her best to take precautions and prevent tragedy. Although we believe in miracles we are not permitted to rely upon them.

There is a Yiddish proverb that “the man destined to drown will drown even in a glass of water.” But that doesn’t mean that you have to be the one to dunk his head into the glass. In short, we believe in the concept of bashert, but we mustn’t live by it.

One may ask, is it not an expression of faith to leave it all to G‑d? To put our trust implicitly in Him that He will provide? That He will protect and guard us from accidents? In the Grace after Meals we say that G‑d is “the feeder and provider for all.” So if G‑d is supporting me, I might ask, why must I shlepp off to work? The answer is that it is a Jewish belief that “G‑d helps those who help themselves.” That’s why it is a commandment of the Torah to safeguard our health. Likewise, we are not to live dangerously by leaving roofs unenclosed, swimming pools unfenced or our doors unlocked.

A few chapters before the command to erect fences on roofs, the Torah states that “The L‑rd, your G‑d, shall bless you in all that you do.” Meaning that to succeed in any endeavor, we need G‑d’s blessing, but He blesses us in all that we do. In order to merit His blessing, we must first lay the groundwork and create the opportunity for G‑d’s blessings to be realized.

This is the approach of the farmer who knows that the success of his crop depends on G‑d granting rain, but that the blessing of rain will only help after he has tilled, ploughed and planted.

There is the story of the shlemiel who kept praying to G‑d that He make him win the lottery and solve all his financial problems. Day after day he implored the Almighty to grant him his personal salvation via the lottery. When the lottery was drawn, unfortunately our shlemiel was not the winner. So he went back to the synagogue the next day and cried out to G‑d bitterly, “L‑rd, you let me down. I prayed so hard. Why didn’t I win the lottery?”

And a deep, booming voice rang out from the heavens saying, “Because you never bought a ticket!”

You never bought a ticket!

The concept of playing a role in shaping our destinies applies to every area of life. As the famous golfer Gary Player said, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” If you want to be mazaldig, don’t depend on mazal alone. If you want to have nachas from your children, don’t rely on the luck of the draw that they will marry the right person. Parents have to plough and plant (and pray very hard) for nachas to happen.

In the Psalmist’s words, which we say before the Grace After Meals on holidays in Shir Hamaalot (Psalm 126), “He who sows with tears, will reap in joy.”