In Parshas Shemos, we are introduced to Torah’s most focal figure, Moses. After a brief description of his birth and his rescue and adoption by Pharaoh’s daughter, we encounter Moses as a young man who has been raised in the royal palace. Now grown, he ventures out of the palace and sees the suffering of his people. He witnesses an Egyptian man mercilessly beating a Jewish slave, and in protecting the slave, he kills the assailant and buries him in the sand.
The following day, he sees two men fighting and intercedes to stop them. ‘Why do you hit your friend,’ he asks one of them, and the man responds, ‘are you going to kill me like you killed the Egyptian?’ Realizing that his murder of the Egyptian is known, Moses is frightened that he will be punished by Pharaoh, as the verse says, “Moses was afraid, saying to himself, ‘Indeed the matter is known” (Exodus 2:14).
The very next verse reads “Pharaoh heard about this matter and sought to kill Moses, and Moses fled” (Exodus 2:15). The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches that the direct succession of these two verses provides us an incredibly profound lesson: Pharaoh’s attempt to have Moses executed was a direct result of Moses’s fear. Because he feared, therefore this conflict ensued. If he had not been afraid, then this challenge would not have occurred at all!
All fear, the chassidic masters teach, is a lack of awareness of Hashem’s complete unity. Were one truly conscious of this reality, then s/he would never be afraid. This is no easy task, and even Moses himself needed to be taught this powerful lesson. But we must be aware that all challenge in life is a response to fear – not as a punishment for incomplete faith and trust, but rather as a mechanism to bring us to complete surrender to the reality that we control nothing and God controls everything because He IS everything.
If we can learn to view our challenges this way, then we will recognize that they are not “bad” per se, but they are a “hidden good.” They are an exercise that we are given to help us relinquish our vain attempts to control our fate. Once we achieve this level of surrender and bitachon/trust, the Rebbe teaches, there is no need for further challenge. When we know that Hashem is One and that everything is an aspect of His singular reality, then we will come to experience this blissful unity and only revealed good will follow.
This attitude was expressed by the Tzemach Tzedek, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, in his mid-19th century yiddish saying, “Tracht gut vat zein gut/Think good and it will be good.” Referencing Torah wisdom from millennia prior, this ancient (and generally unattributed) source and precedent of modern theories of “the law of attraction” asserts not only that positive thinking will result in positive outcomes, but it also provides an explanation for why this is the case. “Positive thinking” in the Torah context is not merely a matter of envisioning, and thereby manifesting, something that one desires. It is meditating on the ultimate reality of God’s complete oneness and absolute benevolence.
“Tracht gut vat zein good/think good and it will be good” does not mean visualizing personal goals or rewards, but rather ruminating to the point of complete internalization on the truth of God’s utter goodness and oneness. It is living with the constant awareness that “this too is for the best” because every “this” is purely and simply another expression of Godliness. When one “tracht gut/thinks good” in this way, then it will necessarily “zein gut/be good” because s/he will have broken through all of the barriers that conceal the spark of God within her/him and around her/him. The darkness that conceals the light will give way, and there will only be radiance and warmth and peace. This is the power that each of us possesses to remake our reality and transform the universe.