Mazal tov translates as “congratulations,” but mazal actually means “luck” or “fate.” Tov means good. Yes, this means that when you heaped good wishes on a friend who just announced she was getting married, on a literal level you were actually telling her “good luck with that.”More on zodiac mosaics in ancient synagogues here. There is also a roughly Geonic Hebrew tractate on astrology called Baraita di-Mazzalot, The External Tractate of the Constellations.
Despite the association with idol worship, one of the biggest Jewish no-nos, the idea of mazal has not been expunged from Judaism. Zodiac signs have been found in the mosaics of ancient synagogues in the Galilee. And the Talmud tells an exegetical story that has God saying “I created 12 mazalot in the sky,” as well as hundreds of thousands of stars, “and I created all of them for you” (Brachot 32b).
Jewish sources also refer to mazal as fate or as an entity that affects something else’s fate. The homiletic collection Bereshit Rabba states that “There is no blade of grass that doesn’t have a mazal in the heavens that strikes it and tells it: ‘Grow!’” (10). And the Jewish mystical work the Zohar states that “everything depends on mazal, even a Torah scroll in the synagogue.”
Monday, November 11, 2013
HAARETZ: Word of the day / Mazal tov: Stars above! Good luck with that. And if you don't have any, you can always move, says the Talmud. (Shoshana Kordova). Excerpts: