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Literally translated, this is what is commonly said in the Jewish community, upon hearing very good news (typically life-cycle events as such as engagement, marriage, birth).

"A good sign and a good constellation may it be for us and all of Israel". It is traditionally said in Kiddush Levanah (Blessing of the New Moon).

Hashem just blessed someone with a wonderful event, and our response is to give credit to signs and stars? Rambam explicitly forbids assigning beneficial traits to the stars in Hil. Avodat Kochavim 11:

"אֵיזֶהוּ מְעוֹנֵן אֵלּוּ נוֹתְנֵי עִתִּים שֶׁאוֹמְרִים בְּאִצְטַגְנִינוּת יוֹם פְּלוֹנִי טוֹב יוֹם פְּלוֹנִי רַע יוֹם פְּלוֹנִי רָאוּי לַעֲשׂוֹת בּוֹ מְלָאכָה פְּלוֹנִית שָׁנָה פְּלוֹנִית אוֹ חֹדֶשׁ פְּלוֹנִי רַע לְדָבָר פְּלוֹנִי: "

"Who is an observer of times [which is prohibited]? They that point at times, saying astrologically: "That day is a good one, that day is a bad one; that day is fit to do that particular work, but that year, or that month, is bad for that particular thing."

How did this strange phrase enter our vocabulary, and how is it Halachicly permissible to continue saying it?

NB: In this related question, one answer suggests that "Mazal" means "flow"; which I had never heard, and seems untenable in all other uses of the term (such as "Ein Mazal L'Yisrael")

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    It "creep[ed] into our vocabulary" from liturgy (kiddush levana). – Yishai Nov 20 '14 at 12:17
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    Is this not the same as the question you link to? – msh210 Nov 20 '14 at 13:55
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    @Yishai That seems somewhat circular. It's part of the "extra" parts of Kiddush Levana which are certainly later and in all likelihood were written by people who had it in their vernacular at the time. – Double AA Nov 20 '14 at 16:06
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    @DoubleAA, it is from Mesechet Sofrim. Not sure what was in who's vernacular, but I'm pretty sure the Talmud doesn't capture 100% of what was at that time, and we see it quite soon after. Also, compare with the Targum Yerushalmi on Bereishis 30:11. It is not just a saying commonly said in the Jewish community. – Yishai Nov 20 '14 at 17:00
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    @Yishai I'm aware of its origin. My comment stands. "It is not just a saying commonly said in the Jewish community." What other status could it have? – Double AA Nov 20 '14 at 17:01
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Good question.

R' Chanina says Yesh Mazal Liyisrael and R' Yochanan says Ein Mazal Liyisrael. (Shabbos 156a)

Rashi (on the topic) points out that both R' Chanina and R' Yochanan agree that the celestial bodies influence events in this world. However, R' Chanina views their influence as inescapable whereas R' Yochanan maintains that prayer or good deeds can improve one's fortunes. Rashba points out further that the dispute revolves around the individual but they both agree that there is no celestial sway over the the Jews collectively.

Check out that Gemara. It's very interesting, it explains the two opinions of mazal, by day of the week, or by hour of the day.

Additionally, saying Mazal tov could be a reference to the blessing of Hashem being reflected in the constellations, and not heaven forbid saying that the constellations are providing the blessing.

The idea of idolatry began in the days of Enoch as Shituf(partnership) where Enoch would say that Hashem gave the constellations power to appropriate at their discretion. This approach gave recognition that Hashem is the Big Boss, but he alloted discretion to the constellations.

This is idolatry for Jews, because we recieve our sustenance at a different spiritual frequency. For Gentiles, this could be ok.

  • Wasn't Enoch a gentile? So what's the problem? – Double AA Nov 20 '14 at 18:56
  • No problem. Just going into the concept of the constellations. – Al613 Nov 20 '14 at 18:57
  • I mean if it wasn't forbidden to him then why is that generation criticized for "starting idolatry"? – Double AA Nov 20 '14 at 18:58
  • I hadn't heard that they were criticized. I have heard it more as a historical fact that that was the innocent beginning to what progressed to be full blown idolatry. – Al613 Nov 20 '14 at 19:04
  • How did this strange phrase creep into our vocabulary, and is it permissible to continue saying it, after realizing what we really saying? – mevaqesh Oct 9 '16 at 1:37
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Additionally, saying Mazal tov could be a reference to the blessing of Hashem being reflected in the constellations, and not heaven forbid saying that the constellations are providing the blessing.

Therefor in terms of what you state above, a birth chart DOES reflect the brachot of the individual at the moment of birth and by extension, Judaism does grant validity to Astrology?

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My answer addresses only the aspect of how the reference to "Mazalot" (sometimes lossly translated as "constellations") became part of Kiddush Levana.

See this article where the author states:

the three middle paragraphs show that the ceremony is filled with magical rites prompted by a fear that the moon, which is at its smallest both in size and luminosity, will not return to its former fullness. (emphasis is my editing)

You need to read at least the beginning of the article to gain some concept and context of why these magical notions were infused into Kiddush Levana, and what makes this "permissible", here.

Offhand, IMO, the mere mentioning of stars and "mazalot" itself does not violate anything. It is possible, that the intent of the paragraph "Siman Tov umazal tov" may be an indirect reference to blessings to come upon us, not necessarily via constellations themselves. It's my conjecture. Either that, or stating this in Kiddush Levana was an exception to what may otherwise be a halachic problem to believe in mazalot in this fashion. In short, your question re halachic problem is valuable, and needs more research.

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Rabbi Yosef Qafih z"l writes the following in a responsum found here:

שאלה: האם יש להמנע מלברך "מזל טוב" או "שיהיה בשעה טובה"?‏

תשובה: כן, אבל המון העם לא מתכוון למזל ממש, ולכן אין למחות בו.‏

Question: Should one avoid wishing "Mazal Tov" or "It should be in a good time"?

Response: Yes. However, most people don't refer to actual astrology, and therefore one should not protest against this. (translation my own).

Mori Rasson Arussi similarly discourages the use of the expression, while acknowledging that it isn't actually forbidden since people don't realy know what it means:

ביטויים אלו אינם הולמים שיטת רבינו, אבל יש ללמד זכות למשתמשים בהם, שאין להם ידיעה בענייני זמנים ומזלות, וכל כמותם שתהיה הצלחה למבורך. ברור שיותר עדיף שנברך בביטויים יותר "נקיים". ‏

These expressions do not express the opinion of our master [Rambam], but we can justify the practice of those who use them, that they don't know about fortuitous times and astrological signs, and their whole intent is just that the blessed one be successful. It is clear that it is preferable to bless others with "cleaner" expressions.

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    So what should one say instead at a simcha? – SAH Oct 12 '18 at 11:31
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A wonderful question, I've just learned that Rambam and have a wonderful answer.

First, the background:

Here's the most original source for the blessing of Mazal Tov - Bereshit 30,11:

"וַתֹּאמֶר לֵאָה בגד [בָּא גָד] וַתִּקְרָא אֶת שְׁמוֹ גָּד."

Yonoson translates it as: "וַאֲמַרַת לֵאָה אָתָא מַזְלָא טָבָא". Similarly, Rashi brings the Gemmorah: "בא גד. בָּא מַזָּל טוֹב, כְּמוֹ גַּד גַּדִּי וְסָנוּק לָא"

To elaborate: After giving birth to 4 tribes Leah became infertile. She turned to her maidservant Zilpah to give birth to another tribe. After Zilpah was successful, Leah uttered the [famous] blessing "Mazal Tov" on the baby boy!

Second, to your question,

The difference between our "Mazal Tov" and Goyish "Mazal Tov you refer. If you notice, Leah did not bless Zipah with Mazal Tov when she was pregnant, but AFTER she gave birth. That is exactly according to Rambam you cited: AIMING for a certain beneficial hour, according to the celestial bodies is forbidden and is a branch of idolatry. So if Leah blessed Zilpah with "May you give birth in a beneficial hour, according to the stars!" - that would be forbidden.

But asking for the given occasion on the GIVEN hour to turn beneficial DESPITE the placement of the stars is totally Jewish.

That's why we say the blessing AFTER something has already happened. Similarly, in Kiddush Levanah, we ask G-d to turn the existing Chodesh to be beneficial for us.

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re mazel tov, siman tov, good constellations, good omens. we picked it up while in exile in Babylonia/Persia, just as we did the zodiac, breaking the glass, and many things. we put Jewish twists on it.

Many ancient synagogues have astrology signs and zodiacs in beautiful mosaics, e.g. Tiberius synagogue in Israel, or the ceiling of one of the shuls in Safed, Israel. our Jewish twist on the glass breaking is to remind us of the temple's destruction, and that we are in galut, even on a happy occasion.

In reality, many Asian cultures, make noises the drive away the bad spirits, the evil eye, during happy celebrations, eg Chinese fire crackers.

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