If Jews believe in Divine Providence (fate), why do we always use the word mazel which means luck? Isn’t that a contradiction of belief?
Actually, mazel is usually mistranslated as luck. The correct meaning of mazel is “a drip from above”. Which is probably why people just translate it as luck. It doesn’t quite sound right to say, “Wishing you a good drip from above on the occasion of your bar mitzvah”.
Your mazel is your pipeline from heaven. In heaven there is abundant blessing waiting to come down to us. But as those blessings descend to earth, they can become corrupted. The freshest water can be polluted if the pipes are dirty.
Good mazel means the flow from above reaches us unadulterated, in the form of positive and happy experiences. If the flow is blocked or contaminated, that’s bad mazel, and things don’t come out as blessings. When we say Mazel tov on a special occasion, we are wishing that the blessings should flow freely from above.
There are ways to unblock your pipes. Do more mitzvahs. Give more charity. Be kind and generous and forgiving. That will keep the pipes clear and the flow smooth. But being stingy and mean, vindictive and petty can clog up the passages and spoil the waters.
Luck is random and anonymous. Mazel is targeted and personal. It’s not just dripping down from nowhere. It is from G-d. He wants to give you blessings. Open your pipes to receive them.
Wishing you lots of mazel,
Mendel (Menachem) Bluming
Source: Likkutei Torah Ha’azinu 71d and other sources