While the gemara discusses whether or not there is mazel (astrological influence) for the Jewish people, it seems clear to all of the classical sources (besides the Rambam who viewed it as nonsense) that mazel is a spiritual reality which definitely does affect the Jewish people, along with the entire creation. The discussion in the gemara involves how great the impact of mazel is specifically on the Jewish people, both individually and communally, and how much they can overcome this influence.
Bereishit Rabba (10:6) says this clearly –
There is not a single plant or blade of grass that does not have a mazel that strikes it and says – “grow.”
The Zohar said similarly –
Everything is influenced by the mazal (i.e., constellations).
The Zohar (Shemot 171b) explained –
There is a ruler appointed over all of the stars and constellations. Every single blade of grass has its own star and constellation that rules over it. And each star has its own ruler who also serves before Hashem. Ultimately, every star serves the world by supervising one object in the world.
The Zohar explained further –
When the Torah was given, the people of Israel were chosen to be the portion of Hashem, with their souls bound to Him. They went out of the sphere of influence of the mazal and into the sphere of influence of the upper levels of sanctity – on condition that they would learn Torah and keep the mitzvot.
In terms of the impact that mazel has upon us, Rava said (Gemara Mo’ed Katan 28a) –
[Length of] life, [number of] children, and wealth do not depend [only] on merit, but rather, on mazel. He supported this with the story of Rabba and Rav Chisda who were both completely righteous sages, as we see from the fact that both of their prayers for rain were answered. Yet they seem to have had very different mazel. Rav Chisda lived 92 years, while Rabba lived only until 40. Rav Chisda’s household had 60 weddings, while Rabba’s household suffered 60 deaths. Rav Chisda’s household had enough fine flour bread even for the dogs, while Rabba’s household struggled to find enough lowly barley bread for people.
The Gemara (Shabbat 156a) addressed the roots of mazel –
It was written in R. Yehoshua ben Levi’s notebook that the day of the week we are born will affect us: Yom Rishon – Extremely good or extremely bad; Yom Sheini – angry or irritable; Yom Shlishi – wealthy and promiscuous, Yom Revi’i – wise and shining; Yom Chamishi – kind and giving; Yom Shishi – hard-working; Shabbat – great and holy person.
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Rabbi Asher Resnick serves as a senior lecturer at Aish HaTorah’s Executive Learning Center, and is a senior training lecturer for Aish’s Rabbinical Ordination program. As a close student of Rav Noach Weinberg, zt”l, he developed a special expertise in addressing fundamental issues in Judaism, as well as in bringing classical texts to life. As a bereaved parent, Rabbi Resnick’s extensive writings on loss, suffering and trauma provide a sensitive Jewish perspective on coping with these fundamental life cycle issues. Olami & NLEResources.com is happy to highlight several essays over the coming months featured on his website JewishClarity.com.