i’ve got problems with this, and is that a problem?

I copied the following from here:

There was once a chassid whose son was very ill. After a prolonged illness, the physicians finally told him that there was no hope. There was nothing more they could do; they did not know if the child would live.

The chassid was devastated. He hurried to Lubavitch and approached the Tzemach Tzedek, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe. Overcome with grief, he could barely mouth his request for a blessing.

The Rebbe answered him briefly in Yiddish: Tracht gut, vet zein gut. “Think positively, and the outcome will be good.”[64]

As the chassid walked out of the Rebbe’s room, he pulled himself together. He put himself in a state of mind that radiated utter confidence. He knew G-d could help him and cure his son. And he believed that this would happen.

When he came home, he was told that there had been a sudden change in his son’s condition. The physicians had no explanation, but the child had definitely taken a turn for the better. When the chassid inquired, he was told that the change took place at exactly the time that he visited the Rebbe.

The story shows us that thinking positively produces two effects:

a) when a person is in high spirits, he functions better; and

b) thinking positively itself brings about positive change. By envisioning good in one’s mind, one creates positive spiritual influence that enables that picture to materialize.

This is the basis of the Chassidic explanation of one of the most fundamental principles of Judaism, bitochon. Bitochon means confidence and trust that G-d will help. That G-d can help us at any given time is a point of faith, and one that is very easy to accept. After all, if He is G-d, He is capable of doing anything He wants. Bitochon means more than that; it expresses our trust and confidence that He will actually help.

Bitochon is not euphoric escapism; it does not absolve an individual of taking responsibility for his future, and acting accordingly. It means that as a person acts, he realizes that his efforts are dependent on G-d’s providence, and he relies on G-d and trusts Him totally.

Besides giving a person the confidence and inner strength to face challenges, this approach also generates positive Divine influence. When a person trusts and relies on G-d, G-d creates situations that will allow him to use his energies in positive and beneficial ways.[65] Our positive thoughts serve as catalysts that promote favorable circumstances for us.

Why am I cruising the Chabad sites?  No, it’s just that I was following a Facebook status quote Tracht gut, vet zein gut. It’s not surprising that this would be a Chabad pith or that she would quote it, so I shouldn’t have even wondered too much.

And what are my problems with it?  Hmmm.  Pretty much just connecting the dots; it’s so much not the same as gam zu letovah, which comes down to accepting our troubles as big payback, Jewish karma.  It’s the “don’t worry, be happy” syndrome, epitomized by the Rebbe Nachman people, a lot of whom are probably certified, not just certifiable.

And what about those who have that positive attitude and don’t have the good results?  Well, maybe that is the good result, I guess, according to that opinion.  But I will struggle with it, because I don’t want to be a sour dour existentialist, either.  I don’t think that you can always fight your bad mood.  Sometimes maybe you have to embrace it, and then work your way out, like Rosie’s “dungeon of resentment”.  Not like Yosef having to wait to be released, not acceptance, but well, a self-imposed time-out. 

And while we’re on the subject of really problematic Yiddishkeit, we can always talk about Kupat Ha’Ir.  But it’s not Purim yes, or even Adar, so I’ll just let you think about it.

And then there’s this from the NYTimes:

Teaching new facts should not be the focus of adult education, she says. Instead, continued brain development and a richer form of learning may require that you “bump up against people and ideas” that are different. In a history class, that might mean reading multiple viewpoints, and then prying open brain networks by reflecting on how what was learned has changed your view of the world.

“There’s a place for information,” Dr. Taylor says. “We need to know stuff. But we need to move beyond that and challenge our perception of the world. If you always hang around with those you agree with and read things that agree with what you already know, you’re not going to wrestle with your established brain connections.”

Such stretching is exactly what scientists say best keeps a brain in tune: get out of the comfort zone to push and nourish your brain. Do anything from learning a foreign language to taking a different route to work.

I’m not sure how they work together, but that’s the stretching of my brain that I have to do.  Maybe I’ll learn to trust in that Hasidic way, but that’s going to be a really big stretch.


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