Good and It Will be Good,
How Your Attitude can Change Your Life
Due to the strong response to last week’s article,
of Fear, let us continue with this theme, and see where
it takes us.
The entire story of the Egyptian exile and exodus
in these weekly Torah portions is about fear and courage, about
anxiety and faith. Our essential beliefs are most challenged
– and crystallized – when faced with darkness.
In the first chapter of Exodus, after G-d charges
Moses with the mission to redeem the Jewish people from Egyptian
bondage, Moses argues “But they will not believe me” (Shemot
4:1). By contrast, after the parting of the sea and the demise
of the Egyptians at the conclusion of the Exodus, the Torah
tells us in this week’s Torah portion (14:31): “They believed
in G-d and in His servant Moses.”
Ever sensitive to the nature of suffering people
and to their miserable plight, Moses understood the great challenge
that pain poses to faith and hope. He anticipated their inability
to see ahead, to believe the promises, to even listen to a message
of hope. As it turned out: “They could not listen to Moses because
of their broken spirit and hard work” (6:9).
However, the suffering of the people strengthened
them. “The more they were oppressed, the more they proliferated
and spread” (1:14). Their faith was tested – and grew. The more
they endured, the stronger their faith became.
Indeed, our sages tell us that the people were
actually redeemed in the merit of their faith.
What is the secret of this faith? “Rozo d’mehemnusa.”
How does one build such faith? In light of our own challenges
today, as we face our own demons – inner and outer – what can
we, you and I, do to bolster our spirits and vanquish our fears?
What can we learn from our ancestors who discovered freedom,
perpetual and eternal freedom, through their faith and hope
in the belly of the Egyptian beast?
The key to the secret of faith is the connection
to the eternal. Everything in life around us is mortal, temporary
– impermanent. Everything erodes, ages. Change is the only constant.
This is true even when life is going well; how much more so
under duress, which shakes the very foundations of our beings.
The only way we can transcend change – and especially the ever-shifting
center of gravity resulting from the painful scars of oppression
– is by connecting to the eternal, something that is not subject
to the mortality and variations around us.
The only way the enslaved people in Egypt could
rise above their predicament and prevent demoralization was
through faith. Their faith in G-d and His promises of redemption
allowed them to hold on, to hold strong, to endure all, despite
the hardships. They were sure – absolutely sure that they would
come out of the hell, and nothing could shake this conviction.
The profound faith of the Jewish people in Egypt
– which emerged under enormous pressure – revealed the deepest
dimensions of the human spirit and the power of faith.
In fact, faith is actually the beginning of an
extensive journey into the mystery of hope and confidence.
Beyond faith (‘emunah’ in Hebrew) there
is trust (‘betachon’). Faith alone can be a passive state:
one believes that G-d can change an impossible situation for
the better. Trust is not just that things can get better,
but that they will get better.
Trust is not just being at peace with any given
situation because you trust in G-d and His plan. Trust is actually
the certainty that you can change destiny. In the words of the
Tzemach Tzedek to someone in need lf healing: “Think good and
it will be good.” Not just “think good” period. Not merely positive
thinking. But that by thinking good “it will be good.”
Trust is the absolute conviction that goodness
will prevail, and that we have the power to make it happen.
This conviction comes from the innermost recesses of our soul
that is connected to the eternal.
“Think good and it will be good” also implies
that trust is an active effort. It’s not like you either have
it or you don’t. Trust takes work and cultivation. We are obligated
and given the opportunity to work on ourselves and discover
in the depths of our soul the power of trust. And this exertion
in turn, actually has the power to change the course of events
– ‘think good and it will be good.”
Yes, we are empowered to be partners with G-d.
Our attitudes can change the way things will turn out.
When the Jews find themselves stuck between the
pursuing Egyptians behind them and the Red Sea before them,
and are confused as what to do next, G-d tells Moses: “V’yisou,”
“Forge ahead.” Don’t just think about it. Do it. And when
they did, the sea parted before them…
With all the uncertainty surrounding us today,
with all the losses that we are experiencing, with all the dysfunctionality
of our generation, with all the scars that each of us carries
-- we have been given solutions to face every challenge. “In
G-d we trust” – the words engraved on the mighty American dollar
– resonates today more than ever.
Trust is tool, a resource, a faculty of the soul.
But it needs our work to uncover its power. And when we do,
it can mean the difference between life and death. As Nachshon
ben Aminodov demonstrated with his resolute walk into the water.
He was the first to move, and as he did the sea split.
So, start moving!