Do the Black Eyed Peas know what "Mazal Tov" means?

I was walking recently in Center City with my husband Ben (who wears a kippah), and a random man walked by and said in passing “Mazal Tov.”  Ben said, “How am I supposed to respond to that?”  I said, “Maybe say Mazal Tov to you too”?  Usually if someone wants to say something Jewish to us they might say “Shalom.”  I believe this is the first experience of “Mazal Tov” I have received.  I think it is probably due to the popularity of the Black Eyed Peas song “I gotta feeling,” which has the term Mazal Tov in the lyrics. 
What does the term “Mazal Tov” really mean?  The song “I gotta feeling” is basically about having a feeling that “Tonight’s gonna be a good night,” and seems to be the sort of song one might play to get pumped up for a night of partying.  Although in the song the phrase “Mazal Tov” is used randomly and could be taken to mean “let’s celebrate,” it also is part of a greater theme that the night is just going to be a lucky one.  Although “Mazal Tov” it is used colloquially in America to mean “Congratulations,” it actually is, in the Hebrew, more along the lines of “Good luck,” or “May the constellations be in your favor.”  The word mazal in Hebrew means “constellation,” often referred to as “luck,” as well.  As you will see, the Black Eyed Peas may have a better understanding of the term than most Jews today!
            We know that according to Jewish tradition different months have different qualities.  As we learn in the Gemara in Taanit 29a  “With the beginning of Adar we increase in joy,”  This is often sung as we prepare for the arrival of Purim in the song “Mi Shenichnas Adar.”  And on the same page we learn “the astrological essence of Adar is healthy.”  But yet we learn in Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) 10:2:  “Learn not the way of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the nations are dismayed at them,” a clear injunction against worrying about astrological predictions.  Furthermore, in Shabbat 56b we learn “Ayn Mazal L’Yisrael,” which means that there is no constellation that rules over the people Israel.
This is an apparent contradiction.  First of all, the pasuk in Yirmiyahu and the statement in the Gemara both assume that there is some influence from the mazalot—just that Israel either should not be dismayed or fearful of that influence—or that Israel is not influenced by the mazalot the way the other nations are. 
Rashi harmonizes this apparent contradiction by teaching that there is influence but tefilla (prayer) and teshuvah (repentance) can change the influence of the mazalot.  This is like the Unetaneh tokef prayer we say on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  The prayer teaches that on Rosh Hashanah our fate is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed, but our prayer, repentance, and charity can lessen a strict decree.   We come into the year and into each month with a certain amount of predisposition to be a certain way, but we know that we can affect these predispositions by the influences of our behavior.
This is even easier to do in the month of Adar because as we are taught, the mazal of Adar is healthy.  This means that the energy inherent in the month of Adar is ready for us to capitalize on.  We can, if we are aware of it, tap into the joyful and healthy energy of the month and do what is best for our souls.  While in other months we might have to work harder thorough tefillah and teshuvah, in the month of Adar, we are naturally there already.  The work is already done for us because the month is predisposed to bring out the best in us.  Its power does not need prayer and repentance.  My wish for all of us this month is that we gain awareness of how finding our way into our own can be effortless and flow from the spark of G-d within.   And if I might add, along the lines of the Black Eyed Peas, I’ve gotta feeling . .  . that this month’s gonna be a good month!


  1. today i heard this song a few times throughout the day. while riding etc.. my ears caught the word mazel tov this time and stumbled upon this article, thank you for your sharing.

    indeed tonight was a great night for me, some prayers were answered.
    Mazel Tov.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the article and more importantly, glad you had some prayers answered! Thank you for your kind comment, it means a lot to me.

    2. .I'm not Jewish, but know a couple of phrases. I was not surprised to hear "mazel tov" in the song initially, it is a common phrase in some american films and culture, which eeks out to the uk in influence and so forth.
      I was impressed to hear L'Chaim!
      I often laugh when i see this or rather saw this song played in pubs in the uk when it came out because the target audience (brits partying and getting out of their heads on the weekend), were completely unaware of what they were singing. I have watched as a few times drunken brits miss pronounced both Jewish phrases as they were only singing what they could hear. I have asked people at work if they are aware of the lyric and not a single one of them were, particularly L'chaim!
      I doubt if they still are aware of the meaning.
      Very good example of a song perhaps being sung incorrectly for nearly a decade.

  2. i always wondered why mazal tov was in the song, I gotta a feeling. this article was interesting.

  3. Thank you for reading and for the positive feedback!


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