You and I aren’t only products of our respective environments. You have traits that are there from before day one! In fact a great deal of what you are depends on factors that go far beyond your environment. The Talmud tells us that “mazal” is a significant factor in almost anything. The literal meaning of mazal, which is usually translated as fortune, is “flow”. Your mazal is the flow of all of the components of your life that you need to be you. This includes when you were born, where, and to whom. It includes your gender, how many brain cells you have, what your life span will be, and many other factors. When someone says, “I have the worst mazal”, what they are really saying is, “I have no idea of how to play the game with the cards I was dealt”.
In earlier times, astrology was a science. Today it is a bad joke. The astral signs once could be read with amazing exactitude. The twelve constellations reflected mazal with such accuracy that by knowing one’s sign, many other factors would be already on the table. Jews can move beyond mazal, and outgrow its limits
The twelve tribes, Yaakov’s sons, were born under twelve different constellations, had twelve different natures, and matching mazals. The reason that it is worthwhile for you to think about this is that the Jewish people are a composite of their traits. You can still find out a great deal about yourself by learning the blessings that the tribes received… They tell you what potentials are there within the collective consciousness of the Jewish people. If you don’t know this, you can fall into the trap of developing cookie cutter thinking.
My son knew a young man who felt burned out at the ripe old age of sixteen. He spoke to the spiritual director of his yeshiva (the mashgiach), who advised him to rededicate himself to what he is learning. “If you try to really untie the knots, and know things well, you will have enormous satisfaction. Maybe you could invest a couple of hours to review, so you will have the great feeling that really mastering big ideas gives you”. The boy, (let’s call him Avi) heard something that the mashgiach didn’t say. “Learn more” was all he heard. “I don’t want MORE. I want LESS” was his unvoiced response. He nodded his head respectfully and headed back to the dorm to spend the rest of the afternoon listening to music/sleeping/noshing on his bed.
Towards evening, he went downtown. The scene was simultaneously unreliably engaging and stultifying boring. The thought of being there day after day wasn’t all that appealing, but he certainly didn’t want to head back to the study hall. “First I’ll leave, and then I’ll figure it out” he thought with the maturity of his sixteen years. He had a monologue with his Rosh Yeshiva who was unaware that nothing that he said was heard let alone absorbed. His next stop was to share his plans with his friend, Ruvi. Ruvi was sure of one thing. Leaping and then looking is a bad idea. “Why don’t you go to the top? Speak to Rav Shteinman, and if you still need to go no one can say that you didn’t try”. “What’s he gonna say that I didn’t hear? Whatever I didn’t hear already, I’ll hear when I break all of this to my dad”. “What do you lose?” was Ruvi’s response, and they set off to Rechov Chazon Ish 5. “What do you want to do? “the sage asked him, and didn’t drop his gaze when the reply was silence. Avi finally said, “I don’t know. Maybe work. I don’t know…”. “Look, why don’t you think about what you would really like to do: you’re only sixteen-you don’t have to support a family. Why not do what you really would like to do?” And come back tomorrow”. Avi agreed. The next day he was back. “I want to volunteer in an organization that helps kids with cancer”. Rav Sheinman’s face lit up. “What a gevalt! What a zechus! “ Avi smiled back. This was the first time in his life that someone had grasped that he was himself. “You still have to learn though. Everyone does”. Avi’s head bobbed up and down with agreement. By the time he left, he was volunteering part of the day, and learning the rest of the day. “What mazal that I went to Rav Shteinman” he told Ruvi.
Why am I telling you Avi’s story? To let you see that he is Avi, with Avi’s soul root which may just not happen to be from Levi or Yissachar or Yehudah. All twelve tribes are holy, potential perfect, and very very beautiful.