Chapter 13 - The Importance of Being Positive
There is a Chasidic teaching that highlights the importance of being positive. In Parshas VaYeishev, the Torah narrates the selling of Yosef. We learn about how his brothers threw him inside a pit that “was empty, without any water.”
Rashi, one of the leading commentators for the Torah, asks, “If the text already stated the pit was empty, why does it repeat that there wasn’t any water in it?” He answers, “There was no water, but there were snakes and scorpions in it.”
The Chasidic Rebbes explain that this is a message for every one of us: Our minds are similar to the pit. When it is empty of water, ie. Torah, it becomes filled with “scorpions and vermin.”
We need to make sure that our pit is filled with water, and as our Sages teach, “There is no water other than Torah.” The Torah is the “Torah of light,” and a “little bit of light can displace much darkness.” If we attempt to introduce the words of Torah and the inspiring and practical teachings of our Sages into our minds, then the negative thoughts will instantly disappear. Furthermore, the general principle is that the human mind can only focus on one thought at a time. Thus, if you think positively, you will immediately get rid of your negative thoughts.
I would like to share an idea with you.
Picture yourself in front of a large door.
This isn’t the door to a house or building, rather it is the door to an isolated gate in the middle of an unknown path. This gate leads to another dimension: Gan Eden. By stepping through it you will find yourself in a peaceful and calm place, a harmonious reality in which jealousy, envy, hate, and all negative feelings are nowhere to be found. You can enjoy the silence, visit gardens, mountains, and a peaceful river that flows from between the rocks, and cleanses everything in its path. This is a peace you have never experienced before. This is a Divine space in which light shines unhindered, and time passes without causing any anxiety. This is where your heart and body are filled with pure happiness that takes over your entire being.
Now imagine yourself sitting on a rock and gazing at the valley in front of you. Take a deep breath and grab an imaginary pen to write a letter to your Creator, telling Him about all the fears and regrets that burden your heart. Don’t hold back. Write down whatever you are feeling. Don’t try to mitigate anything. Show Him that you know He is not intimidated by those “demons” regardless of how terrifying they are to you. So write that letter, and don’t leave anything out. Once you’ve finished your letter, throw it into the wind. Watch as it miraculously rises above the air, higher and higher, helped by every part of your soul, breaking through all borders. Eventually you lose sight of it, knowing that it has reached the Heavenly Palace and was delivered to the King of kings, G-d.
Have faith that your pain will disappear. Your Father is always looking out for you. There is nothing to fear, and you are not alone. You are in the arms of He who has Infinite Love for you. A love more intense than the love of a father to his young children born in his old age.
I also want you to practice a piece of advice that the Lubavitcher Rebbe frequently gave to those who were fighting against anxiety and fear.
The Rebbe recommended to those who consulted with him that they make an effort to memorize the first lines of chapter 41 in the Tanya. In this chapter, there is a description of how dedicated and committed G-d is to us, and how that Divine commitment should be reciprocated by making an effort to fear Him and thoroughly satisfy His Divine Will.
Here is a translation of those words:
However, everyone should always keep in mind the beginning of the Divine service, its core and its root. This means that even though fear is the basis for “stay away from evil” and love is the basis for “do good deeds,” nevertheless, it is not enough to merely awaken the love inside to “do a good deed.” At the very least, and before performing a positive command, we must first awaken the natural fear hidden in the hearts of every Jew, which keeps us from rebelling against the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, so that this fear be manifested within our hearts, or at least in our minds. To awaken this kind of ultimate fear, we should meditate about the greatness of the holy Ein Sof and His Dominion, which extends over all worlds, both in the upper and the lower planes. We should also consider that “He fills all worlds” and “encompasses all worlds.” As the verse states: “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” [And despite all of this’, G-d puts aside the upper and lower realms, instead rests His Sovereignty solely on His Nation Israel, in general, and on himself, in particular. Hence, people are compelled to say: “It is for me that the world was created.” And the people embrace His Sovereignty as Supreme King for the people, who shall serve and cherish Him, and fulfill His Will. “And G-d is standing over him” and “the whole world is filled with His glory.” And [due to his Omniscience], He looks at him and He inspects his kidneys and his heart [and his inner intent] to ensure that he is serving Him in the right way. Therefore, we must perform our duties before Him with reverence and fear, as one who is literally standing in front of the King Himself.
Fear and anxiety are the results of perceived danger or risk. This means that fear is shows a lack of trust in G-d’s control over the world in general and over our personal lives specifically.
The words of the Alter Rebbe are meant to address this distorted way of thinking. Their objective is to awaken in us the certainty that G-d controls every aspect of His Creation. His main objective is to “search your kidneys and heart to be sure that you are properly serving Him.” Once we truly meditate about this, our fears will disappear in His absolute presence that controls our lives and we will instead realize that “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not lack.” As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explained, “If we know that ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ that He is dedicated to truly guiding us on the right path, and that He protects us from anything that might harm us along the way, then we “shall not lack.”
Now that you’ve finished this book, I want you to reflect and meditate on the happiness you’ve achieved. In your mind, go over each of the activities. Take note of those you have incorporated into your life. Only a sincere and profound introspection will bring about a real change to your life. I hope G-d inspires you and gives you the necessary strength and wisdom to put these tools to good use and to live a life free of anxiety.
Rabbi Gavriel Benayon serves as a Chabad Rabbi in Panama City, Panama. In his book, "From My Anxiety to Your Happiness," he shares his personal struggles with fear and anxiety and shows how the Torah can address these obstacles.
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