The rabbis of the Midrash stated that "everyone and everything requires good fortune -- mazal -- for successful existence." They added that this
rule of life applied "even to the sefer Torah that is in the ark." Over the ages there have been many comments and interpretations offered for
this enigmatic statement of Midrash. The two most commonly quoted explanations are as follows: In its simplest form of understanding, the
statement of the rabbis refers to instances when there are numerous sifrei Torah resting in the ark and yet only one or two of them are ever used
for the public reading of the Torah. The disuse of the other sifrei Torah, which lack mazal and good fortune, leads to their deterioration.
Another understanding of this phrase may refer to the fact that a certain sefer Torah may have an error in it that would render it unfit to be
used until the error is corrected. However, whether the error appears in a section of a sefer Torah that for some reason is never read from
publicly and remains undetected for years or forever, or whether the one error in a particular sefer Torah is immediately found and renders that
sefer Torah unfit for public service, is an issue of mazal. One sefer Torah has the good fortune -- escaping the ignominy of being declared unfit
for public reading while the other sefer Torah, not having mazal is removed from its honored place in the synagogue services.
However a clearer and even simpler explanation of the Midrash occurred to us at Beit Knesset HaNassi in Jerusalem last week. Some time ago, there
was a robbery that occurred at a neighboring synagogue. That synagogue is located barely one block away from HaNassi and is on the same street
and on the same side of the street as is HaNassi. In that robbery, five sifrei Torah were stolen from that synagogue. The anguish felt by the
members of that synagogue was shared by all of us who learned of that dastardly deed. Though the police were investigating the matter, many of
the members of the robbed synagogue and of HaNassi as well despaired of ever seeing those sifrei Torah again. Tragically, there appears to be a
brisk market in used sifrei Torah and stolen ones easily find their way into that market. Last week, I noticed that there were two suitcases in
the front courtyard of Beit Knesset HaNassi. Ordinarily, I would have thought them to be of a suspicious nature and called the police bomb squad
which, with its mechanical robot would have blown them up without inspecting their contents. But, inexplicably, I just did nothing. Next morning,
someone even more foolhardy than I, carried the two suitcases into the synagogue. Once in the synagogue, the suitcases were examined by a number
of us and lo and behold they were found to contain four sifrei Torah. Thinking that the thief may have been overcome with pangs of conscience and
regret, we contacted our sister synagogue down the block. They immediately sent over their "experts" and were able to positively identify these
sifrei Torah as being those stolen from their synagogue. The joy at finding these stolen sifrei Torah and being able to return them to their
rightful place in the ark is unbounded. These sifrei Torah truly had mazal -- the best of good fortune.
If a sefer Torah requires mazal, we ordinary mortals certainly do. All of our daily activities are fraught with potential peril. As drivers or
pedestrians, automobiles are certainly a hazard to our continued well being. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be disastrous for all
concerned. How the Lord dispenses mazal is unknown to us. But all of us realize that it is an essential ingredient for success in commerce,
family and in life itself. The rabbis of the Talmud taught us that as well: "Children, life span and wealth are all dependent not only upon our
merits and efforts but upon mazal as well." Many have been the comments and explanations regarding this statement of the Talmud, but the stark
truth of the simplicity of the statement speaks for itself. One can do everything "right" in family, career and health matters and yet be
unsuccessful if the elusive ingredient of mazal is absent. I wonder what happened to the fifth stolen sefer Torah? What was its mazal and where
is it now? All of this remains a mystery to me as does the entire concept of mazal. In all events, I wish each and every one of the readers of
this piece good fortune and mazal tov in all of life's endeavors and circumstances.