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M'shaneh Makom, M'shaneh Mazal

This post will also begin with a song memory from my teenage years. When I was in High School a friend gave me a Poogy album. Actually, the band was called "Kaveret" and the album was called Sippurei Poogy ("Poogy Tales"). I played that album a lot, and learned a lot of Hebrew by listening to it. One of the songs had many expressions, and the words were used as if they were the expression and then was also taken literally - and it was really funny.  One of the verses was about a guy who was about to go to the electric chair, but he asked for a different chair - because there is an expression, "M'shaneh makom, m'shaneh mazal" ("if you change your place you change your luck/destiny"). It was funny.

It was also fairly true (not for the guy in the song - I don't know what happened to him). Every time I changed where I lived, it changed my life trajectory. After high school, I spent a year in Israel. Living in a place with bombs every day made me change how I looked at life and security. Living in a place where we spoke Hebrew, made me love languages even more. In the late seventies the country was young and the use of Hebrew as a modern spoken language was young too. It seemed like everyone who was speaking Hebrew spoke with a different accent, and had a different language that they grew up speaking. Speaking Hebrew was a wonderfully creative process. If you knew the pattern for how to take a root (like Sh-L-M for Shalom), and use it in a different form - for example, turn it into a verb, or a noun, or an adjective - you could create a word that no one had ever said before, but everyone would instantly understand what you meant. Learning Hebrew was so exciting. And now I have a doctoral degree in Linguistics.

As a Talmudic teaching, sometimes Rabbis used this expression to guide people who needed a change in their lives. There are a number of stories, for example, of young married couples who were not getting pregnant, and after they thought they tried everything they could think of, they would ask the Rabbi what else they could do. A number of times the Rabbi would suggest that they move to a different home... it might change their destiny.

When I was a teenager I never imagined that I would live in Louisiana. I have lived here almost half of my life. Until I moved here, I moved a lot. It was hard to imagine living in only one place for so many years. Now I love that I am here. 

Of course, the quote about changing our destiny by changing our place has a new meaning now that we are confined to our place. It could be argued that by NOT changing our place we change our destiny. I might argue that by staying in place, we are changing our place and changing our destiny.

I am thankful to still be here in this place. I am hopeful that we will see other places again in good time. I think I am going to listen to some Poogy again. Maybe instead of thinking about makom as "place," I should think of it as "space." Listening to good, enjoyable songs from my teenage years puts my mind in, as the expression goes in English: "a better space." 


Mon, November 30 2020 14 Kislev 5781