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.