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Parshat Emor: Lady Luck

We have all met people whom it seems that luck follows them wherever they go. Things just magically seem to go their way. On the other hand, we have met people – or maybe sometimes feel it about ourselves – where luck is ever elusive. “I never seem to get a break” is their mantra and life is one tough challenge after another. 

How exactly this works and why fortune seems to smile on some while not on others is very much related to the extremely difficult issue of “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People” and all the related thorny notions of how God judges us. It’s waaaaay too complex to deal with that topic here and I would not even pretend to explain an issue that, according to Jewish tradition, even the great Moshe had difficulty with. 

Yet the concern is still a gnawing one and makes one wonder whether or not we can do anything that might improve our chances to better our luck or fortune. Is there maybe something within our control to ensure that things might go more our way and to our liking? 

In fact there happens to be one thing that we can certainly control – and that is our attitude. Every one of us has a say in our mind-set and how we choose to view any situation.  And as it turns out, attitude and outlook are both super important and crucial factors to our good fortune. 

Two people might find themselves in the exact or very similar circumstances and yet one will view it through a positive prism while the other will view it through a negative one. It’s within our ability to have a more optimistic outlook on any situation, although I agree in some instances it is a lot easier said than done. 

Taking it a step further, it’s also true that our outlook and attitude can even shape our future. Yes, how positive or negative we choose to see any particular situation or challenge can actually affect its outcome by creating a more positive or negative energy and circumstances, as the case may be. I know that sounds a bit vague so let me illustrate with a story whose origins escape me. 

A tale is told of a man looking to move to a different town. This was in the days before he could Google the place and find out everything that he needed to know about the locale, and it was certainly before the days where he could hop on a plane or jump into a car to check it out. So he came with his horse and wagon and all of his belonging and happened upon a wise shoemaker who worked on the outskirts of the town which he was considering moving into. 

He inquired about the nature of the people of the prospective town. The shoemaker answered by asking him what the people were like in the town that he just moved from. “Oh they were quite nice, friendly, warm and kind. I loved it there, but unfortunately for economic reasons beyond my control I need to move elsewhere.” The shoemaker looked at the man and with a smile replied that he would find the people of this town similarly kind, giving, friendly and outgoing. The man thanked the shoemaker for the tip and he made his way onward towards the town to start his new life there. 

Not more than a few hours went by when another man in similar circumstances approached the same shoemaker with the same query. The shoemaker, being a consistent fellow, asked what the people where like from the town that he had just vacated. “Oh they were not nice people. Very hard to get to get along with. They were not kind, giving or very friendly; snobbish in fact.” “Well”, the shoemaker replied, ” Unfortunately I am afraid that you will find the people of this town similarly mean-spirited and cold.” The man thanked the shoemaker for the inside scoop and continued his journey to find a more hospitable place to live. 

The obvious question you have, of course, is the complete contradictory reports of the nature of the people that the shoemaker gave about the exact same town. Why would he present such a disparity of perspectives about the same place and the same folks? And, as you may have guessed by now, the answer lies in the fact that a place is whatever we decide to make of it. 

People will reflect back to you your attitude, face and demeanor. If you are happy, upbeat and positive, you create that as your immediate environment and other people pick up on it. This, in turn, brings out happiness and positivity in the people around you, thereby creating positive and fortunate circumstances that will result in all sorts of blessings. 

Conversely, if you are miserable, sad, kvetchy and unhappy, then lo and behold, the people around you become that way. And this in turn will create negative, unfortunate and lousy results in your life. And on and on the cycle goes – for better or worse – depending on which path you choose. Miserable people will be miserable no matter where they are, and happy people will be happy no matter where they are.  

King Solomon poignantly tells us in Proverbs, “As water reflects back a face to a face, so too one’s heart is reflected back to him by another.” Simply put, if you are miserable and unhappy, your attitude is contagious and those around you will magically become the same – which will reinforce your misery, and even add to it. But if you are upbeat and see the goodness in people and situations, then the people around you will feed off of that and you will have created a cycle of happiness and success that in turn revisits you. 

As the sportscasters like to say when a team or individual is playing very well and everything seems to be going their way, “Your create your own luck.” And indeed we do. 

While we may tend to think of luck as some arbitrary lottery-winning random event, the truth is that this is a very limited and scarce definition of luck that applies to maybe one in a million people. For the rest of us, we have a very significant say and influence as to whether or not lady-luck and good fortune will smile upon us. And more often than not it begins with nothing more than a smile and doing something kind to the person next to you. 


Rainy day people all know there’s no sorrow they can’t rise above…
Rainy day people all know how it hangs on a piece of mind
Rainy day lovers don’t hide love inside
They just pass it on

Gordon Lightfoot, Rest in Peace 1938-2023

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