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The Jewish “Law of Attraction”

The Jewish “Law of Attraction”

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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.1

Footnotes
1.

Based on a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, recorded in Likkutei Sichot, vol. 36, pp. 1–6.

Rochel is a mother of four children and the co-director of Chabad of Las Olas, Fla., serving the community of young professionals. She is a high-school teacher and a freelance writer—and a frequent contributor to Chabad.org. She lectures extensively on topics of Kabbalah and feminism, and their application to everyday life. Rochel holds an MS in Brain Based Learning from Nova SE University.
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Rochel Holzkenner February 17, 2016

To Joe - I appreciate your thoughts. Commitment to G-d's Goodness and His mitzvot are the vessels for blessings. To believe in G-d is to submit to the idea that our blessings and our challenges come from Hashem. The chassidic adage of 'think good and it will be good' takes this belief to the next level of commitment. From belief (emunah) it becomes trust (bitachon). Belief in Hashem recognizes that whatever the outcome it will be meaningful for me. Trust in Hashem is the conviction that the outcome will be good. Trust is a more challenging mental exercise than belief because it forces me to rely on Hashem's supernatural powers. It's this mental exercise of trust that makes a vessel for the blessing of success explains the Rebbe. Reply

Joe Katzman USA December 31, 2015

I'm really surprised that Chabad published this. It seems to be very much in conflict with some key Jewish principles. This, in particular, seems like idolatry:

"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."

The whole concept of praying to an idol is "a supernatural power gives me things I ask for." This is NOT how G-d works, and to imply so strikes me as a very serious error.

We don't have a "gimme god." We have the Creator of All, who (among other things) is truth. Aligning yourself to truth is going to make life hard. See: history of the Jewish people. The faithful aren't guaranteed candy and presents. What they are guaranteed is the long-term consequences that come from aligning to truth and goodness. IF they actually do follow the precepts of the Shema, etc., don't follow other gods, and also "v'loh tatooroo acharei levavaychem v'acharei aynaychem." I quite wonder about The Secret in that regard.

So "think good, and it will be good" may not solve your situational problem. On the other hand, what do you expect despair or rage to get you? Here, in the place that circumstances have put you, "think good" is your best option. And what about the wider mission in the world that you accepted as G-d's servant?

Think good, play the long game, and know that the trees you plant are valuable. Even if you, personally, never eat of their fruit. Reply

Daniel Flagstaff, AZ January 6, 2015

There is a difference between "visualization" and "trusting G-d".

"What the wicked fears will come upon him;" but, in the film you cite, evildoers (of different stripes) are encouraged to "bless" themselves "in their hearts". What will G-d do to someone (specifically in Israel, but the concept is the same) who affirms what G-d hates, yet blesses themselves in their hearts? He will never be willing to forgive that person, but will single them out for destruction [Dt 29:21].

The "good fortune" (loosely termed) a person is able to "manifest" is not proof he is favored of the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob [Dt 13:1-5] any more than any other person's (normal) successes. In fact, "negative visualization" (to inflict damage) is successfully practiced by, for example, "satanists" (the "Anton LaVey" sort).

What G-d foretells a curse upon, you should not falsely foretell a blessing upon.
If you do what He hates, you should be honor Truth and ask for mercy [Dn 9:8]--honoring Him. Reply

Rony Mishiyev May 13, 2013

thank you for this! Reply

Melanie May 11, 2013

I have often wondered if we see this at work with Jacob when he used the branches before the troughs of the livestock. The speckled and spotted branches!! I love it - it truly makes me think. I'm sure there are other examples throughout the Scriptures if we pondered it from this point of view. What do you think? Reply

Shani Seattle, WA January 10, 2012

I just watched "The Secret" documentary and it made me think; I also thought that "the universe" sounded like a euphemism for G-d. Thanks for the article! I definitely believe it is important to trust that things are for the best and have a positive attitude, but we don't know what is best, so to us it may not seem good at the time. But it is! Reply

Anonymous Hobbs, NM December 24, 2010

Hi, I found the article to be "interesting". I say this in light of thinking "this works for the believer as well as the non-believer, in G'D." That's whats makes the differnence-BELIEVER - believes in G'D and in His Word! Non-believers are trying to find another way, another truth, another life, apart from the Word, Way, and Life of G'D which He is!
What principle governs this "Law"? Believing and trusting in G'D? A very true statement that it is difficult to trust or believe for a good result when in the mist of hardships, trials that life can bring your way. I thank G-d, Bless be His Name, for the simplicity of His Word! ... Man makes it diffiicult! Reply

Nini Rubin Brooklyn, NY June 20, 2010

Every word spoke to my heart. Like you were listening to my thoughts and reading my mind. The best part is that it is based on the Rebbe's teachings so I believe it's true. Reply

Camille Davies Mandel Maplewood, NJ via chabadessex.com February 8, 2010

I grew up in a "Word of Faith" church, before converting to (Orthodox) Judaism 14 years ago.

While the Christian part of my Judeo-Christian belief system fell away after I traced historical footprints back to Sinai, the truths I learned in church about the power inherent in human thoughts and spoken words remain an unwavering force in my life.

Thank you, Rochel Holzkenner, for showing me that the Rebbe understood these spiritual truths, too. Now I feel less like a stepchild whose deepest beliefs are beyond the Jewish pale.

It should deepen our trust and love for G-d to understand that the universe is the willing and faithful agent of the Holy One Blessed Be He, Who in His supreme love and benevolence infused it with spiritual laws that actually respond to the hearts and desires of mere mortals.

(Who is like unto THIS Go-d! Seriously, who?)

We have much more power over our lives than many of us realize. Because G-d gave it to us, as co-creators in His universe.

Finally, the "secret" is out. Reply

Owen Rockaway Beach, Mo/ U.S.A. via jewishmemphis.com January 29, 2010

This is a very enligtening article. Wish it could be shared by all the world. To remind us that G-d does love us and will provide our ever need. Thank You. Reply

malka devorah bklyn January 25, 2010

devorah means power of word keep praying and connecting we r all here together Reply

Raphael Sorkin Foster City, CA, USA January 25, 2010

I have read the Secret, and I have just read Rochels comment about the Secret. I think that's incredible what she wrote. To me reading the Secret only meant one thing, that the Universe which they mention constantly is what what we the Jews call G-D. We are all his children, and He want's us to be happy, so when we pray and we believe that he is going to help us, he does. He does, because he knows that we believe in Him unconditionally.It made me happy to read what Rochel wrote, so Thank you. Reply

D'vorah St. Louis, MO January 13, 2010

This is yet another enlightening article from the Chabad.org team. And, I am so impressed with the staff. Rochel is another really accomplished, educated woman, contributing to the world.
Chabad-Lubavitch is a great example that one can strive to be Orthodox, and as a women be far from oppressed! As is the stereo-type.
I've found inspiring role models here. Thank you. Reply

D'vorah St. Louis, MO January 13, 2010

I will pray with all my heart for you. As Jews, we can advocate for each other. In fact, G-d wants this. Wants us to ask Him, and also care about each other and help each other to make things better here in this world.
I know you pray, but would you give me the honor of praying for you, too? May I have your first name, and your Mother's first name; Hebrew name best, but if you don't have one, that's no problem at all. Also, not one of your prayers have gone to waste. You have revealed more of the Light everytime you prayed or performed a mitzvah. And, it cannot be undone! You have made this world just that much better, though it may not seem apparent right now from your vantage point. You have just now inspired a Jew to say a few more prayers in her life, is that not a wonderful thing?! Perhaps, this is also a piece of your puzzle, a piece of both of our portions. Reply

LoveLopEars Austin, USA January 9, 2010

I believe in G-d. I have heard all about this subject/mentality for years. It seems to work flawlessly for some but for myself...I am still trapped in a world of continual extreme pain and debt & poverty. The car accidents that happend to me were not my fault in any way but my career was ruined & I have lost almost a decade of my life trying to get through the pain, depression & extreme anxiety which resulted. There are so many thousands of people around the world who are in much worse condition...fighting for their very lives due to Genocide in Darfur or Islamic radical Muslims who try daily to kill as many Israelis as possible or all those fighting Cancer & other life-threatening diseases ravaging their bodies. People are starving. The species are disappearing, the environment has been raped and polluted by the power-hungry rich who exploit everything & everybody. I selfishly, pray every Sabbath for help & I am very discouraged. I feel guilty feven asking. Your thoughs? Reply

Anonymous LA, CA via chabadpasadena.com January 8, 2010

The law of attraction does not work as 2+2=4. If that would be the case then the Mumbai would not happen and/or the child who was ill and parents and whole community prayed for it would not died. No one in their clear mind can say that this is a result of their thinking and that they brought that up to themselves.

It is one thing not to trust G-d as it was in the situation with Moses. When he was directly told that everything will be well. It is a very different story with the Will of G-d when what we loved so dearly is taken from us and/ or our dream of something did not happen and "happy" thoughts did not help.

My point is that G-d is Enigma and it will stay that way and any speculations beyond that point is nonsense and easily can be challenged and dismissed.

Should be think " good thoughts"? Absolutely. And we also must remember, that what happens after that is G-d's work and Will and not our doing. After all we are not G-d! Reply

JULIUS ROMANOFF NEWTOWN, PA, USA via jewishcenter.info January 8, 2010

Man has always tried to understand the Universe and himself, and becomes fearful lest he make an error. The Torah provides G-d's guidelines as to how man should live. The rules are clear, and require self discipline. As we have embraced democratic ideals, we have accepted the concept that the individual is most important. Scientific knowledge has brought changes that enables us to live longer in the modern era, by giving us guidelines for healthier living. People feel they do not understand G-d, since he is infinite and man is finite. They seek new answers they can understand. Reply

Mountain Educator Airmont, NY January 8, 2010

The Previous Rebbe therefore is teaching us an essential component of Bitachon
"He must be truly happy and cheerful, as though all his livelihood were already in hand"
Experiancing NOW the joy that it WILL be good, causes the reality to become that way. Reply

Mountain Educator Airmont, NY January 8, 2010

When I saw The LOA I recalled the hayom yom from 16 Adar sheini:

Avoda for the businessman includes arousing within himself the faith and perfect trust in the One Who feeds and sustains all flesh, that He will provide him with an ample livelihood. He must be truly happy and cheerful, as though all his livelihood were already in hand. Reply

Jeffrey Rosner Long Beach, NY via bachyouth.com January 8, 2010

"The Secret" is based on a 49 page book called "The Science of Getting Rich" by Wallace Wattles. The author mentions G-d and Faith on the 2nd page of the book and throughout. Reply