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Articles: Rabbi Michoel Gourarie

Nature, Nurture, Both or None

Nature, Nurture, Both or None

Question:

I remember a class you gave at the BINA "Summer Learning Experience" a few years ago. You talked about the 'Mazalot' - the Talmudic concept that every hour is governed by one of seven planets/stars and how this affects our personality depending in which hour we were born. I think you offered to calculate our "mazal" if we were interested. So if I gave you my birthday and the exact hour can you tell me mine and what character traits it represents?

Answer:

I am so happy that you enjoyed the program and remember the lecture that far back. I hope we will see you at this year's Summer Learning on Friday 25th December. Once again there is a range of fascinating topics on offer.

What you remember is accurate. Every hour has its Mazal which could shape your character in a specific way (and if you really want I can work it out for you). In fact our sages teach that there many other factors that do the same thing. This includes the day of week we were born on, our parents level of spirituality and their general conduct, the friends we have and the environment that we grow up in. In summary - nature and nurture both have strong influence.

However, while all of this is true and fascinating we should not get carried away with its relevance to our daily behaviour. There is a fundamental Jewish principle that overrides all of this. The concept is that while we are influenced by all these factors we are not bound by any of them.

Fundamental to Jewish thought is that ultimately we choose right over wrong and good over evil.

The Talmud states:"Everything is in the hands of heaven besides fear of heaven". While we cannot control what happens to us, we do choose our responses. We choose to get angry or stay calm, to love or to hate, to pursue materialism or explore meaning and spirituality.

So my advice - don't invest too much time and effort in analysing yourself and identifying your personality genes. Rather invest your energy in displaying the power to choose by exploring morality and good values and making the right decisions and choices.

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