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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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‘Personally Unique’

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As we go through life we must constantly remind ourselves of the veracity of this concept. We are created with the gifts and tools we need, and therefore it is foolish to compare ourselves to others.

It is well-known that Mazal Tov is an expression of congratulations among Ashkenazic Jews. At a wedding, bar mitzvah, bris milah, and even when one purchases a new home or is honored at a dinner, we wish the celebrators Mazal Tov.

The origin of the expression is unclear[3]. Moreover, the meaning of the expression is perplexing. Mazal is commonly defined as luck, thus mazal tov means good luck. It would seem that luck has nothing to do with congratulations. Why then, do we wish people mazal tov at every joyous event?

Rav Eliyahu Dessler zt’l[4] explained that defining mazal as luck is a misnomer. Rather, mazal refers to a person’s unique purpose in this world. Because a person’s economic status, or health, is a matter of mazal. Mazal then is a matter of fulfilling one’s tafkid, his unique purpose in the world. Wealth, poverty and illness are all examples of tools that a person must utilize to fulfill one’s tafkid.

Therefore, whenever a person is blessed with something new we wish him mazal tov. Essentially, we are blessing the person that he utilizes the new commodity – an honor, a new home, or reaching a milestone – to further the fulfillment of his tafkid. At a wedding too, we bless the newlyweds that each should utilize their newfound union to further their personal and joint growth in fulfilling their destinies in life.

The month of Elul is devoted to preparing for the imminent Days of Judgment. The Shelah HaKadosh writes the well known mnemonic that Elul alludes to the verse[5], “Ani ldodi vdodi li- I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me.”

Our first task during Elul is to appreciate the first word of the verse, “ani – I.” One must understand his own greatness and then realize that G-d created him in that manner because that is what he needs for optimal growth.

It is only with this cognizance that one can commence the process of repentance. If one does not realize his own value and how much G-d loves him, he will hardly want – or feel worthy – to build a connection with G-d.

Every person has to do his/her best with the cards he/she has been dealt with. It helps to remember that we were the ones to deal the cards we have been dealt, the life we have been endowed with, before we descended into this world. G-d grants us what we felt we need to help serve Him in the optimal manner possible throughout our lives.

[1] Parshas Vayishlach, on the pasuk “shalchayni ki ala hashachar” in a footonote, based on a quote from the gemara Rosh Hashanan (11a)

[2] Women have certain levels of innate holiness that men do not possess. That is part of the reason why they recite the beautifully worded blessing that G-d “has created me according to His Will”. Men require greater levels of growth before they can reach a level of “according to His Will”. But that is a lengthy discourse that cannot be conveyed in a footnote.

[3] It does not appear in the gemara, rishonim, or early acharonim.

[4] Michtav MaEliyahu chelek 4, p.98, in the footnote

[5] Shir Hashirim 6:3

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About the Author: Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW is the Rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead and the Social Worker at Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch in Monsey. He can be reached at stamtorah@gmail.com. Or visit him online at www.stamtorah.info.


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