Start worrying?

“Start worrying, letter to follow,” reads the Jewish telegram, goes a classic stereotypical joke. The misfortune and hardship Jews have survived throughout the ages would seem to legitimize the gloomy outlook.

And it’s not just a Jewish problem.

We’re regularly bombarded with negative news; “If it bleeds, it leads,” goes the familiar trope. The news industry depends on sensationalism. Even on a good day, when events are objectively good, journalists have a knack for finding something negative to report and this morning’s news of the Brexit didn’t help matters.

If you plan to follow the news, it’s important to distill it through a special filter; we have to train ourselves to view each negative report through a positive lens: If this bad news is worth reporting, it must be because it is irregular. If the world were that bad, then one small negative event wouldn’t make the headlines.

Personally, I tend to be an optimist. Risky business it is, letting on that one is optimistic; it is often an invitation to being called naive and shallow. But my tendency is to see the positive of every situation. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Rebbe, who built the Chabad movement from a small Chassidic sect to the global network it is today, narrowly escaped the Holocaust from occupied France and made it to America in 1941. He had every reason to be pessimistic; more than half his family had been killed in the holocaust. The bulk of the religious Jewish world that he was raised in had been decimated and the outlook for Jewish life in America was bleak.

But the Rebbe stubbornly refused to submit to pessimism. He would remain the quintessential optimist throughout his life, empowering anyone who came in contact with him to view the world through a more positive lens.

The Rebbe believed that we all could – and should – be optimists.

The Rebbe would go so far as to encourage positive word usage; the way we speak, the terms we use to describe something, can have a powerful impact on our reality. The Hebrew term for a hospital is Beit Cholim, “home of the sick”. The Rebbe encouraged that it be referred to instead as Beit Refuah, “home of healing”.

The Rebbe’s unflappable optimism fuelled the global Chabad network that has permanently changed the world for the good. The Rebbe didn’t accept the negative notions of the numerous naysayers; he was confident that positive change can be accomplished in the world and would never accept otherwise.

In spite of the negative and alarming news cluttering your news feed, be optimistic about the future. Even our seemingly dangerous world is far better than the world our great grandparents lived in one hundred years ago. The world is getting better daily; we can choose to be part of the positive momentum or get in it’s way – but it is happening.

What’s that? It doesn’t come naturally to you? Here’s an idea: Begin each morning with positivity, by focusing on the blessings in your life. You have two hands? That’s a reason to be thankful. You woke up in a bed with a roof above you? Don’t take it for granted. Throughout the day, appreciate the simple “small” blessings. Use positive terms to describe even the most challenging of circumstances.

You’ll notice yourself becoming more optimistic; if you allow yourself the luxury, that is.

Focus on the positive in your personal life; it will help you see the positive in the world at large. Become more optimistic and your positive outlook will be contagious; it will inspire those around you to become more positive, optimistic and hopeful. What a worthy accomplishment!

About the Author
Rabbi Yossi Grossbaum is the co-founder and Executive Director (and chief cook and bottle washer) of the Chabad Jewish Community Center located in Folsom, California and serving the entire region. He relishes the opportunity to discuss religion and politics with anyone who is interested and he is passionate about sharing age old Jewish wisdom with anyone who will listen. One day he will write a book entitled "Never Fall in Love."