A few years back, there was a great deal of talk about The Secret. Intrigued by the purported message of this documentary film, I downloaded it onto my laptop. Through a series of interviews, The Secret exposes what it terms the “Law of Attraction”: the idea that thoughts influence reality. The Secret talks about a universal intelligence that responds to our desires and positive visualizations. “If you really want something and truly believe it’s possible, you’ll get it,” posits the film.
Is “the universe” a new-age, neutral-sounding pseudo-name for G‑d?I appreciated the empowering message of the film. I also had some questions. First, I wondered what was meant by “universal intelligence.” Was this merely a new-age term for G‑d, or a throwback to pantheism, the belief that G‑d is expressed through nature? Or was it the belief that the universe has independent acumen?
And if it truly is G‑d coordinating the alleged Law of Attraction, what would compel Him to respond to my positive visualization? Clearly G‑d responds to my moral choices, but does He also value the thoughts that I “put out there”?
There is a fascinating incident related in the second chapter of Exodus that opens up a wealth of insight into the Jewish Law of Attraction.
It begins with Moses breaking up a fight. Unfortunately, his intervention was not appreciated.
Now it came to pass in those days that Moses grew up and went out to his brothers and looked at their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian man striking a Hebrew man of his brothers. He turned this way and that way, and he saw that there was no man; so he struck the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
He went out on the second day, and behold, two Hebrew men were quarreling, and he said to the wicked one, “Why are you going to strike your friend?” And he retorted, “Who made you a man, a prince and a judge over us? Do you plan to slay me as you have slain the Egyptian?”
Moses became frightened and said, “Indeed, the matter has become known!”
Pharaoh heard of this incident, and he sought to slay Moses . . .
Why does the Torah highlight his emotional response?Anyone in Moses’ shoes would have been frightened. He’d taken a huge risk when he killed the Egyptian in order to save his brother’s life. And now, if his action were to be exposed to Pharaoh, he’d be considered guilty of a crime of the highest order.
That being said, it’s unusual for the Torah to spill ink to describe Moses’ emotional reaction, his fear. We don’t hear about Isaac’s fright when being bound on the altar, or Joseph’s fear of being sold into the hand of strangers. It’s not that they were impassive, just that the Torah, being a book of moral guidance, recounts only the details that will be useful for our spiritual growth and development. Moses was frightened, but why does the Torah highlight his emotional response? What relevant insight is offered by G‑d through highlighting Moses’ fear?
The Rebbe offers a fascinating insight based on the juxtaposition of the above verses. And Moses became frightened . . . Pharaoh heard of the incident. So potent was Moses’ fear, his “negative visualization,” that his fear blossomed into fruition—his deed was reported to Pharaoh, and Pharaoh wanted him killed.
Moses is the Jewish hero, righteous and prophetic. And yet G‑d exposes a subtle flaw of his, his disbelief that things would turn out for the best. If he had been optimistic, he could have averted his own arrest by Pharaoh.
That’s a relevant insight!
In G‑d We Trust
Trusting in G‑d can be very challenging, especially when things are going sour. Let’s explore two types of trust in G‑d and their respective benefits. The first type is faith, and the second, trust.
Faith is the knowledge that everything comes from G‑d, whether delightful or painful. No harm can come my way if it isn’t part of His master plan. Even when trouble seems inevitable, G‑d can easily pull me out—if He wants to. Serenity is a byproduct of faith. Since He is driving the course of my life, whatever happens is meant to be.
Trust runs deeper. It’s the certainty that things will be good in a way that I can perceive them to be good: that G‑d will come through and resolve my problem to my satisfaction. This is most challenging when the odds for success are slim. But trust is the conviction that things will work out for me, that I’ll be spared the looming pain and hardship.
It is this deep commitment to G‑d’s unlimited goodness that makes us deserving of the goodThe third Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, once advised a man whose child was severely ill: “Think good, and it will be good!” (In Yiddish: “Tracht gut, vet zain gut!”) This chassidic mantra is the ultimate expression of trust, and it is the conviction that G‑d will come through that attracts success and healing.
But wait! Isn’t it arrogant to believe that G‑d will definitely bring me success? Who’s to say that I’m worthy? Does “Think good and it will be good” work for the imperfect person?
The Rebbe emphatically asserts that even the imperfect person can utilize the Jewish Law of Attraction! The reasoning is as follows: Believing that G‑d is unlimited and provides good for those who are deserving, as well as those who are not completely deserving, is hard work! It takes mind control and a deep commitment to positive thinking. It forces us to surrender addictive, stressful thinking and replace it with the belief that G‑d is in control. It is this deep commitment to G‑d’s unlimited goodness that makes us deserving of the good. It inspires Him to give us success, whether we’d be otherwise deserving or not.
Unlike The Secret, the Jewish meditation of “Think good and it will be good” is predicated upon absolute trust in G‑d, and a wholehearted feeling of dependence upon Him. The universe is merely a tool through which G‑d coordinates His master plan.
But one thing that greatly inspired me about The Secret was the apparently widespread notion that things happen for a reason, that there’s a hidden component guiding our destiny. I took it as a sign that global redemption is imminent. The social climate has so shifted that spirituality has gone mainstream.