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Mazal During the Nine Days

The Nine Days before the terrible Ninth of Av in which we mourn and many avoid engaging in normal levels of business, are often seen as somehow “inauspicious.”

I wonder if we have allowed superstition to encroach into the place reserved for actual Judaism?

I ask this because I am reminded of the opinions of Rabbi Yochanan and Rav, that there is no mazal in Israel. Astrology, according to these opinions, is only for the non-Jewish world. We Jews are to look to Hashem for favor and blessings, and we do that by seeking and growing a relationship with our Creator, not by falling into astrology and superstition.

One might well counter, of course, that given the historical prevalence of tragedy on and around the Jewish date of the Ninth of Av, that clearly the time seems to be somehow unlucky, a time when G-d has reserved His favor or otherwise hidden His face from us.

But here’s the problem with the argument that G-d caused all these events to happen: G-d did not create the Ninth of Av: we did. It was the Jewish people, in the episode of the spies, who lost their nerve and lost their willingness to appreciate that our mission in this world is not just to be molly-coddled by G-d in the wilderness, but to go out and bravely step up as G-d’s partners in this world. We are responsible for combating evil wherever we find it, and promoting holiness at every opportunity.

Every tragedy in the world since then has been one that G-d has allowed – not because G-d is evil, but because He endowed all of humanity with free choice and the responsibility to make good choices. Pestilence and destruction and evil in this world is our responsibility. The Ninth of Av (and the days preceding it) are not to find an opportunity to wallow in loss, but to realize that we must do better, that we must right the wrongs of the past, by stepping up to our responsibilities as G-d’s partners in improving this world. We are not supposed to be passive actors; on the contrary!

Seen in this light, the fact that so many events happened on the same day are not meant to teach us that the beginning of the month of Av is a time of misfortune. Each tragedy is on the same date to reinforce, event by event, a lesson that we continue to stubbornly resist: we are not at liberty to shuck the immense responsibility riding on our shoulders. We are G-d’s people, and that means we must summon the courage to act like it.

Comments are welcome!