The way he's moving up the ranks, many are predicting the day when Shimon Waronker becomes top executive over one of America's largest school districts. Never mind that he's just in his early forties and that he's pretty fresh in the field. Put aside the fact that he's a strictly orthodox, Chabad Chassidic Jew. That, for those who know him, just makes him a more likely candidate.

Shimon Waronker's claim to fame comes from the trenches - not the military trenches, although he's learned important and practical lessons there, too - but rather school administrative trenches.

Waronker got a personal death threat from the incarcerated student's fatherWaronker captured the heart of a nation and became a darling of the media - the Today Show, CNN, NBC News and the front page of the New York Times - for transforming a school known as "hell on earth" into a shining example of academic and social wellness. Not bad for a first time principal.

His first day on the job, there was a beating. The victim, a young teenager, suffered brain damage, vision loss and more. After having the perpetrator arrested for assault (with the help of some of the two dozen police officers assigned to the school), Waronker got a personal death threat from the incarcerated student's father, a man who had just been released that day from prison - for rape.

Five gangs controlled the neighborhood and their headquarters was the school, Middle School 22 in the Bronx, New York City, where they had taken over the halls, the classrooms, the washrooms and sometimes even the administrative office. That's a pretty impressive feat for students from Grades Five through Eight, until you factor in the failure rate, which puts some of those Grade 8 students as old as 18. The older students would rake in magnificent 'salaries' by roping in the younger ones to do the bulk of their dirty work - drug dealing and other crimes - because under 16, a kid doesn't do time.

Most people, like the previous six principals, would have quit the place within a few months but not Shimon: He had a vision and he was going to implement it. Today, just a few years later, the gangs are gone, the drugs, crime and violence are negligible, the kids are learning, the staff is cheerful and the parents are grateful and optimistic. But how did he implement this unprecedented miracle?

That's the question I asked Shimon Waronker during the question period following a pre-Rosh Hashanah pep talk he gave to the Jewish Russian Community of Toronto. He said it comes down to three things: bitachon, dira b'tachtonim, and simcha. In English, that's absolute trust in the Creator, an unswerving commitment to fixing the world, and indomitable joy.

This was no textbook recipe for social and academic remediation. His answer left me confused and, I admit, a little irritated because I thought he was being evasive. But the more he spoke about it, the more I understood that he wasn't kidding. It's a classic case of "Where there's a will, there's a way."

Absolute trust changes our destinyWhat is bitachon - trust? It's like supercharged faith. Regular faith is when you know that whatever G‑d has in store for you is for your own good, even if it is not apparent. Trust is when you know that it will turn out good in the revealed sense as well. How can we be so sure? If even the Patriarchs feared that they might not deserve to see their divine blessings fulfilled, on what basis are we so sure?

The answer is that absolute trust changes our destiny. To exemplify, two women were once blessed by a Rebbe to conceive after a long time without children. After about a year, one of the women gave birth and the other had not even become pregnant. This second woman brought her complaint to the Rebbe, who responded, "What do you expect? Upon receiving her blessing, your friend went out and bought a baby carriage!"

Shimon Waronker, in effect, told himself: "The good L‑rd put me into this situation, so it has to work out well." Believing that was the first step in making it happen.

What is Waronker's second principle - dira b'tachtonim, making the world G‑dly - about? It's about the world living out its purpose. The rules of decency, morality, goodness and kindness don't change depending on race, creed or culture. They don't change with or without drugs or firearms. Each and every person has a purpose in the world and, in general, it's the same purpose for all of us: To make the world better, according to how the Torah views things.

Shimon Waronker saw the plight of today superimposed on a vision of tomorrow What will the world be like when Redemption arrives and G‑d is revealed? Will there be mutual respect and peaceful coexistence? Pride and dignity? In that case, it's our duty to make it that way now, to the best of our ability. Shimon Waronker saw the plight of today superimposed on a vision of tomorrow and realized that it's time to roll up his sleeves and get to work. It is not possible that G‑d's plan for society is unworkable, and it's not His will to do it on His own.

The third element is simcha - joy. Now what has that to do with anything? Our sages teach that two joy breaks through barriers.

Here's an example of this principle in action. One day Shimon Waronker returned to MS 22 from a conference to find that a gang had taken over the school's administrative office - literally. Undaunted, he greeted the situation with his characteristic smile, but that only irritated one of the faculty who said, "How can you smile at a time like this?"

"First of all," Waronker responded, "we know exactly who's involved because the whole thing is on camera and we'll get those guys. Second of all, if I start crying, what's everybody else going to do?"

Waronker is a case study in the Chassidic adage, "Tracht gut, vet zein gut - think good and it will be good." The way he figures it out, there are only two possibilities: Either Sartre, Camus and Nietzsche were right and life is amoral, meaningless and purposeless, or, there is another way and Judaism is onto something real. Realizing the latter is the only viable option, he's thrown himself into it wholeheartedly and his passionate faith in G‑d and human nature is contagious.

He's a living lesson for all of us that, first of all, you can be successful as a Torah observant Jew and a proud Chassid. Second, with the right attitude you can overcome all difficulties. And, finally, there is no situation that can't be fixed.