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Lacking Luck

Rabbi Yehoshua Alt


A book about Eretz Yisrael

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

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Lacking Luck


One meaning in the word מזל is to be in the right place at the right time and say the right thing. This is hinted to in the word מזל, as it is an acronym for מקום, זמן, לשון (“place, time, speech”). Many successes are because one was in the right place at the right time and had the fortitude to say the right things.


שלימזלshlimazel (“an unlucky person”), is a person who just doesn’t have מזל. This is portrayed in that word as it is a contraction of שלא מזל.


Warren Buffett, whose net worth is over 100 billion dollars, says that he was born lucky. “I was born in 1930. I had two sisters that have every bit the intelligence that I had, have every bit the drive, but they didn’t have the same opportunities. If I had been a female, my life would have been entirely different. When I was growing up, women could be teachers, secretaries or nurses, and that was about it. You don’t know whether you are going to be born black or white,[1] male or female, infirm or able-bodied or whether you will be born in the United States or Afghanistan (In 1930, when he was born, the odds were over 30 to 1 against being born in the United States). Another big difference was that I was wired in a certain way that enables me to be good at valuing businesses.”


On another occasion, Buffett said, “I was born at the right time. If I had been born thousands of years ago, I would be some animal’s lunch because I can’t run very fast or climb trees. Let’s imagine, that a magic genie takes me back in time to the moment before my birth. The genie points to a clear box with billions of white plastic balls with black numbers stamped on them, and he proposes a deal, ‘You may take the life you currently have, or you may draw from life’s lottery box, and take a chance on a ball that leads to a different life.’ What a risk. In my new life, I would certainly want to be born in America, but there’s only about a 4% chance of drawing a red, white and blue ball. I would want above-average intelligence, and a family that supports my education, but only 8% of those lives will come with master’s degrees. And I certainly would rather not have to try to work my way out of poverty, but one out of eight balls would mean I would not have access to clean drinking water, and half the balls would mean living on less than $2.50 per day. I am going to keep the life I have, Genie, thanks anyway. ‘What if I let you draw more than one ball? Will you now play the ovarian lottery?’ This would only be a worthwhile proposition if the genie would let me draw about 5,000 balls from the lottery pool! Only then would I be likely to improve my situation, or, in other words, only one in 5,000 people in this world are born with a better chance at life than I was born with.” Buffett points out that the US has richly rewarded him for valuing businesses, but that wouldn’t be the case in every country. “It is not the greatest talent in the world but it happens to be something that pays off a lot in this system.” In conclusion: “I won the lottery by being born white, smart, able-bodied, male and in America.”

[1] When he was born, during the Great Depression, much of America was still segregated, and African-Americans had an unemployment rate two to three times that of whites.

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