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Is the Law of Attraction a Jewish Idea?

Is the Law of Attraction a Jewish Idea?

Are we really the masters of our own lives?

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The Law of Attraction is a popular idea that states that a person’s attitude attracts matching happenstance. Pessimism attracts misfortune, while optimism attracts good fortune.

The power of attitude to change the flow of a person’s life is a tacit assumption of much of Torah literature, particularly in that most influential source of common wisdom, the Psalms. “One who trusts in G‑d, kindness surrounds him!”1 “Fortunate is the man who puts his trust in G‑d!”2

The sages of the Talmud similarly appear to take this law for granted. For example, in dismissing as useless superstition a folk-omen to determine whether one’s journey will meet with success or doom, the sages advise, “But don’t do it.” Why not? “Because perhaps the omen will be negative, the person will worry, and his fortune will go sour.”3

The Zohar describes this optimism effect in cosmic terms:4

The Lower World is always ready to receive and is called a precious stone. The Upper World only gives it according to its state. If its state is of a bright countenance from below, in the same manner it is shone upon from above; but if it is in sadness, it is correspondingly given judgment. Similarly, it is written, “Serve G‑d with joy!”—because human joy draws another supernal joy. Thus, just as the Lower World is crowned, so it draws from above.

Yet, reading those words, you’ll note a critical distinction between this ancient attitude and the law of attraction. The law of attraction places the human being smack in the center of the universe, pulling all the strings. You create your own reality. Jewish optimism, on the other hand, is based on a faith in a fundamentally beneficent Higher Reality.

Jewish optimism doesn’t create or even attract anything new; it simply pulls back the blinds, opens up the windows and allows the light of day to shine in without distortion. G‑d is good and there’s only one of Him—and therefore all that happens must be essentially good. Our faith that this is so allows it to be visibly so.

A metaphor that might help:Optimism just lets the movie play clearly, in hi-res Think of a video streamed through narrow bandwidth, full of ugly artifacts and audio distortion. Similarly, evil and negative events are distortions of life-giving energy from above. Optimism loosens the constrictions, widens the bandwidth and allows the video to flow through in high resolution with minimal compression and zero information loss. The movie was a good movie all along—but now it looks good as well.

Truthfully, in certain situations, trust in G‑d can flip around the underlying reality as well. On the first verse from the Psalms we cited above, Rabbi Yosef Albo (c. 1380–1444) writes:

This means that even if he is not fit of his own accord, nevertheless, this is how trust in G‑d works, drawing kindness freely upon those who trust.5

Similarly, Rabenu Bachye ben Asher (d. 1340):

One who trusts in G‑d is rewarded by being carried high above affliction—even when it is befitting for such affliction to befall him.6

This is more than allowing a clear signal to enter—rather, it is a reciprocal effect.Sometimes, trusting G‑d can change everything Think of a young child walking through a storm, tightly clutching his father’s hand. No matter how exasperated the father may have been with his child’s behavior a moment ago, those tight little fingers around his own elicit an instinctual response to be big and strong, provide and protect—as Wordsworth described, “The child is the father of the man.” Any vestige of anger has suddenly vanished, replaced by pure compassion. So too, our total reliance on G‑d can work wonders when all else has failed.

When the son of Reb Michel Blinner of Nevel was in mortal danger, he asked Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, the “Tzemach Tzedek,” for a blessing. The Tzemach Tzedek responded, “Awaken the power of trust in G‑d with simple faith that He, blessed be He, will save your son. Thought helps. Think good and it will be good.”

And so it was that Reb Michel’s son was saved.7

Still, none of this makes you the author of your reality. On the contrary, it is your utter surrender to a truth infinitely greater than yourself—a.k.a. G‑d—that effects this change in your reality.

The law of attraction is attractive to human reason—and ego. The kind of optimism that has kept the Jewish People in existence all these millennia is based on neither of these. Rather, its firm foundation is a super-rational conviction, one that has proven itself more powerful than any other idea in human history: That life is good, because its Maker is good, and our job in life is to prove it so.

Footnotes
2.

Ibid 40:5

3.

Horayot 12a

4.

Zohar II:184b

5.

Ikkarim, maamar 4, end of chapter 46. See also chapter 47.

6.

Rabbeinu Bachya Ben Asher, Kad Hakemach, Bitachon

7.

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchaak Schneerson of Lubavitch, Igrot Kodesh (letters), vol. 7, pg. 197

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Alma Lopez Hollywood, Fl. June 15, 2017

Rabbi Freeman, thank you.
Finding this article at this específic moment is a Divine Providence of faith and trust in our G-d (Bless be He). That all is for good and that all will be good.
Reply

امیر شریفی March 8, 2016

very good

thanks Reply

Michael Shapiro Elizabeth March 23, 2015

Beautifully explained! Thank you for this very important and clarifying article!! Reply

Sharon Ballantine USA December 11, 2014

Law of Attraction does not preclude G-d while the Universal Law of Attraction does allow us to create in our world, it does not preclude G-d any more than the Law of Gravity does. We may consciously use either of these natural laws or not. That is our choice, either way, they are always at work. The basic premise behind LOA is that there is something outside of us, but that we are not victims, we are powerful if we use the tools that are provided. Some people call this power God, others call it Good, or Spirt, or...the list goes on. Reply

Anonymous Eugene or 97404 August 27, 2014

"law of attraction" Reading this article,.I finally "GOT" the reason my belief/attitude toward "God" is so much better.I do not question him,try to figure him out.his motives,if he is a Being,or just an organism,I do not do any of this.I just ACCEPT GOD THE WAY HE IS--NO MATTER WHAT HE IS.i DO NOT TRY TO ANALYZE, JUDGE,OR FIGURE HIM, OUT.. OR IT, .i JUST ACCEPT IT./HIM/WHATEVER, THE WAY IT IS. AND WHAT GOD DOES. WHAT a relief. that is my mission, to accept it. AND to do his will. Reply

Ezeanyanwu Jonathan C Nigeria June 27, 2014

Thanks for the teaching, it shows me that there is need for us to be positive in our thinking Reply

raziela March 10, 2011

YES! Thank u for summing up so beautifully the subtle difference between the "positive thinkers" and jewish faith in Good and G-d. THank G-d for Jews :) Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, Ca, USA February 10, 2011

"Law of Attraction"...very dubious. Other phrases for this are "Karma", "What goes around comes around", and "You asked for it". Highly dangerous philosophies. I wish it could be true at all times because I think I'm a good person with a good heart and I'm kind and nice and have a good sense of humor. Not all people are like that, and I run into people of all kinds. Reply

sandra johnson crown point, Indiana February 8, 2011

Let thesunshine in It is difficult to be happy in difficult times the only recourse is to hold tight to the Torah.
It has helped me in some pretty drastic moments. Reply

Anonymous ny, ny February 8, 2011

Abuse Cases or not Sometimes there are more than one reason for a behavior.

I used to look down and away from some people, when I was a kid.

Not because I was abused, but because I thought the person I was interacting with was an idiot and I didn't want to see him/her or interact with the idiot any more than I had to.

Sometimes there are more than one reason for a behavior. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA February 6, 2011

Interestingly, in abuse cases, Children who learn to accept abuse as being normal tend to send out signals that it is ok for others to abuse them. It can be little things like saying, "I'm sorry" too often for minor things, like looking down or away when asked why they do things, etc. It's not as much as ATTRACTING as it is ACCEPTING. I was an "easy mark" early on in my life. I have recently learned it is ok to say, "NO", "Stop it", "I don't deserve that", and take the power back in any relationship. I believe this is a psychological theory and not a Jewish one. Reply

Marlene Fremont via jewishtrivalley.com February 6, 2011

How can law of attraction be G-dly? G_d is what puts the action into your dreams so they don't remain a dream. Your thoughts create the dreams, G-d is the fuel to allow it to happen or not . Reply

Chanah February 6, 2011

I've been wondering about this for years After reading a book that stated the obvious, I found myself feeling very depressed and ineffective. Certain aspects of the book's advice actually worked, but, it's just missing something really important, G-d. Reply

Marlene Fremont, ca via jewishtrivalley.com February 4, 2011

For me it's law of attraction is like a centrifical force: Hereing and thinking and internalizing something long enough starts a momentum that is hard to stop. Therefore it best be a positive momentum. It takes g_d to give energy to keep the positive thinking going. Negative energy requires nothing and that leads to thoughtlessness open to someone elses thoughts to pull you where the benefit for them is. Reply

Vlad Seder Lexington, KY February 4, 2011

Re: If anyone can explain to me... Gaby, I think Rabbi Freeman gave the best answer, to your question, yet let me add a small remark: I think part of the answer is
in your question: "where was that G-d when we were exterminated during Holocaust?" - but.... WERE we exterminated?!?!? Apparently NOT, since we are having this discussion - both you and me are
very much alive. Where are we now - and where is malek/Haman/Hitler yemach shmo?

Am Israel CHAI!!! - and the only reason for being CHAI (alive) is that G-d, WAS with us, IS with us, and WILL BE with us forever! Reply

Irving Newman Henderson, NC February 4, 2011

Re: Holocaust For us Jews that must have an "answer" before we can be happy, the unanwerable question of Hashem and the Holocaust, must be answered by each individual for himself. I believe that if someone asked the 18 million Jews alive in the world in 1935 how many would willingly die in a war to reinstate the nation of Israel on it's ancient, God-given land, 1/3 would have raised their hands. Reply

Anonymous Albuquerque, NM February 4, 2011

Holocaust question I don't have the answers but can say in my own life I don't blame G-d for why people have done evil things to me. They have free choice. I do think their wrong doing is between them and G-d and hopefully someday they will see the error of their ways and rectify their relationship with Him. This includes all the witnesses that stood by, watched and did nothing to stop it. Reply

Flinkstein London, UK February 4, 2011

holocaust Concerning the holocaust, there is life after death as well as reward and punishment. There is also free will. One thing I find fascinating about Germans is that there are two kinds of Germans, First the German Germans who are cursed by the fathers and grandfathers and bear the mark of guilt and shame. Second there are Germans whose forebears had nothing to do with the holocause, such as Swiss, Italian, British, American Germans, etc., who are free of guilt and shame. Reply

Emily Melbourne , VIC February 4, 2011

Great quote That life is good, because its Maker is good, and our job in life is to prove it so. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA February 3, 2011

On the one hand, and on the other hand... On the one hand this is true. On the other, it is not. Yet, both answers are correct. For example, JOB was a positive thinking person, and yet many negative things happened to him. So, thinking positive thoughts does not automatically mean you attract positive events. Yet and still, when one is given a situation in which negative events are happening, and one can still cling to faith and hope in goodness and G-d's love and grace, one RISES ABOVE the negative situation. Many of us who had been abused as children know we did not ATTRACT the abuse; yet, there was a SWITCH in our brains in which we could switch off the sensation of what is happening, and be in "another reality" where all is good and kind. Those of us who could switch it off, did not continue the abuse with others, and those who LIVED IN the negative world in their minds thought it was normal, and continued abusing others as a result. So, on one hand, there is a law of attraction. On the other hand, there is not. Reply

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