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    Often, when a person

    is going through a

    trying time, his friends

    and family will urge

    him to “think

    positive.” We might

    ask, why should such a person think

    positive? Why should he assume that

    the outcome will be positive, and not,

    Heaven forbid, the opposite? The Torah

    commands in Parashat Shoftim, תמים

    תהיה†עם†הß≠†אלוקיך†, which is commonly

    translated to mean, “You shall be


    translation has led many to mistakenly

    think that Jewish faith is only for the

    simpleminded, that in order to believe

    in Hashem, we can’t be intelligent or

    sophisticated, and if we are more

    intellectually inclined, then we cannot

    have faith. This is absolutely false. A

    study was once done of experts in a

    large variety of fields, testing their rate

    of success in making predictions about

    their respective fields. The researchers

    examined over 82,000 predictions,

    testing the outcomes over the course of

    many years. The findings were

    astounding. The researchers found that

    experts’ predictions were even less

    accurate than those of ordinary folks

    with no expertise in the fields. When my

    father was in the hospital for an

    extended period, I spoke at length with

    some of the greatest doctors in the

    relevant field of medicine about his

    condition. I was amazed by two things:

    by how much they know, and by how

    much they don’t know. Their

    knowledge was simply extraordinary

    and dazzling. But even with all this

    knowledge, they were so limited. They

    could not predict what would happen. I

    mentioned this to one of the doctors, and

    he said, “This is exactly what I tell the

    members of my team, over and over

    again.” Even the brightest, most

    knowledgeable, most sophisticated

    people on earth cannot predict the

    future. Hashem created the world in

    such a way that we have absolutely no

    idea what the future will bring in any

    area of our lives. Nothing about our

    lives is guaranteed to stay the same, for

    better or for worse. This is what תמים

    תהיה†עם†ה߆אלוקיך†means. It doesn’t mean

    we should be simpleminded and not be

    smart. It means that we must realize that

    no matter how smart and sophisticated

    we are, only Hashem knows what is

    going to happen. We have absolutely no

    idea. Halachah requires blowing the

    shofar from the narrow end of the

    shofar, such that the sound leaves from

    the wide end. The Gemara bases this

    requirement on the pasuk in Tehillim, מן

    המצר†קראתי≠†י≠ה†– we call out to Hashem

    from the מצר†, from the narrow

    constraints. The Arizal explained that

    we must cry out to Hashem recognizing

    our constraints and limitations, and

    recognizing His unlimited abilities. As

    we approach the new year feeling

    “constrained,” feeling that we are

    trapped in problems and difficult

    situations, we must be aware that

    Hashem can infinitely expand the range

    of possibilities, that He can make

    anything happen. This is the case for

    optimism. Being optimistic does not

    mean being foolish or delusional, or

    being irresponsibly impractical. Of

    course, when we face a crisis, we need

    to do everything possible to help

    ourselves. But at the same time, we

    need to recognize that so many things

    can happen that we cannot even

    imagine. Hashem’s range of

    capabilities is endless. There is so, so

    much that we don’t know. There is so,

    so much that can happen that we cannot

    ever predict. The possibilities might

    seem very limited, but in truth, they

    aren’t. When we live with this belief and

    this awareness, we begin opening our

    eyes to see beautiful things in the world.

    We start living with positive energy and

    enthusiasm, because we know we aren’t

    stuck, we know that anything can

    happen, and we gradually start to see

    how wonderful things are happening

    that we weren’t expecting. Thinking

    positive does not ensure that everything

    will work out well, but it most certainly

    helps ensure that we take notice and

    appreciate when it does. And this makes

    life so much happier, and so much more