Positive Thinking

Thursday, 26 May, 2016 - 11:12 am

There is the old question of the glass half full vs. the glass half empty and which approach is better. Are optimists just Pollyannaish and pessimists are the realists or are pessimists just jaded by life experience while optimism is our natural state?

I would argue that if we take a look at children we will conclude that our default setting is being optimistic. Unless they are upset by something in the moment, children are general optimistic and cheerful about the future. Case in point. In New Orleans we have a Synagogue Softball League. The Chabad team is not exactly the Yankees of the league. In fact, last week, we just won our first game in several years. The one thing we have going for us week after week, year in year out, is our fan base/cheering squad. The children come out to every game and cheer their hearts out. We could be losing by ten runs but they are still cheering us on.

On a more serious note, the medical world has long acknowledged the value that positive thinking and an optimistic outlook have on even a serious medical situation. David, one of the Israeli patients currently awaiting a liver transplant at Ochsner, is always in an upbeat mood and has a smile on his face whenever I see him. I commented on this to him to which he replied that he knows how much positivity contributes to his getting through this current ordeal.

Taking it one step further, Chassidism teaches that positive thinking, not only helps get us through a difficult situation, it can actually impact the outcome. To quote the Tzemach Tzedek (third Chabad Rebbe) “tracht gut vet zein gut – thing good and it will be good.” My uncle, Rabbi Josh Gordon, of blessed memory, lived by this mantra based on inspiration he once received from the Rebbe in this regard. He shared that he saw the “tracht gut vet zein gut” approach have a concrete impact in alleviating many of the obstacles he faced in his life.

Now, as a jaded pessimist, I can say that this easier said (or written) than done. However, when I find the inner strength to inject positive thinking into a challenging situation, it is helpful on all of the aforementioned levels. So let’s all try to do more of “tracht gut vet zein gut” and reap the many benefits of positive thinking. The greatest obstacle in the life of a Jew is Galus – exile. With “tracht gut vet zein gut” we can power ourselves over the goal-line into redemption!

Happy Lag B’omer and Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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