Negative or positive?

Friday, 3 July, 2020 - 4:06 pm


“Have you noticed that the most positive word recently is ‘negative’?” asked my sister in a text message sent to me earlier this week.


While obviously referring to a negative covid test, this one liner, which was probably just a forwarded, really got me thinking. For in the context of covid, which is clearly not a good or positive thing, we can find some positive.


Earlier this week my wife and I sent three kids away for overnight camp and we will send two more after the weekend. While we’ve been sending kids away for camp and school for many years now, when I sent them off this time I had a different feeling within me, one that I hadn’t experienced before. It was hard to define at first, but upon further analysis I realized what it was.


For 105 days we had all of our children home. This may not sound like something extraordinary for most, but in our life, where the children are sent to Yeshiva when they are old enough, we don’t all together get to live as a family for an indefinite amount of time. It is the story of the life of many a Jew who lives out of the concentrated Jewish areas.


Initially we thought the lock-down will be short lived and eventually most states realized life has got to resume and started reopening – which is how we can send kids to camp. For a long time in between, however, we lived with the knowledge that this isn’t going to be brief yet there was no reopening in sight. During that time period we were all home, together as a family, indefinitely. It takes a lot of work (think 15 loads of laundry per week) but Dobi and I really enjoyed having them home without a return ticket. It was something we hadn’t experienced for a while, and we realized just how much we will miss it now that life is slowly resuming again.


This is truly a positive within the negative and I know that everyone can find a positive in their negative if they only searched.


This idea is highlighted so often in Chassidic teachings: Since everything comes from Hashem, everything is good, the only options are revealed good or hidden good. What we perceive as bad and negative is truly good in its source – only hidden. Sometimes we will understand it later and sometimes we won’t; but the faith that everything Hashem does is good, is a fundamental part of our faith.


In 1927 the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, was arrested by the communist regime for his ‘counterrevolutionary’ activities of spreading and teaching Judaism. He was sentenced to death but miraculously the soviets were forced to retreat; at first commuting the death sentence to exile and ultimately they released him within a month. The date of his release is the 12th of Tammuz, which is tomorrow, and is annually celebrated within the Chabad community worldwide and beyond.


In his diary, the Rebbe describes just how terrifying the Spalerno prison was and how every detail in the building and in the process of arrest was orchestrated to frighten and confuse the inmate to the point that they were completely lost and surrendered. He then describes how his faith and the realization that Hashem brought him to this place and He is in control was able to calm him and strengthen him in those difficult moments when they did everything in their power to frighten and confuse him. One paragraph struck me as extremely powerful:


“How great is the inner faith, the perfect faith, which is transmitted through our heritage to all Jews, a spiritual inheritance from our patriarchs. How great is the power of absolute trust in Gā€‘d. These are not only the foundation of our Jewish faith, our holy faith, but the foundations of life itself, normal everyday life, the material existence of every Jew.”


Faith in Hashem isn’t only a ‘religious thing’; it is a ‘life thing’. Through proper faith in G-d our entire lives are different; the knowledge that He is in control and whatever He does is for the good – regardless of my ability to comprehend it – changes the way we live and truly enables us to see the positive within each negative and even if we don’t, it enables us to carry on with joy and resolve.


May Almighty G-d grant us all a life filled only with revealed good.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Mendel Greisman


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