During a private audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, R. Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, a bureau chief for a national Jewish newspaper extolled his periodical: “Our publication is independent and completely objective!”

The Rebbe responded pointedly: “Independent, perhaps—but objective? There is no such thing. It is humanly impossible to be completely objective.

“Every person has a bias of some kind.”1

I understand the Rebbe’s words to mean that while one can live without an agenda, one cannot live without bias.

Through a mix of nature, nurture, and free will, we each possess a certain lens that frames and forms the way we see ourselves, others, and the world around us. It is simply not possible to erase all traces of our personality, past experiences, and deeply-held beliefs from our observations, expressions, or actions—no matter how hard we may try.

This frame that we adopt, whether consciously or unconsciously, deeply impacts the way we perceive reality.

This matrix of understanding becomes our operating system, so to speak—the default mechanism through which we construe and contextualize, react and reinforce, interpret and identify every event and interaction we experience.

Based on this fact of subjectivity, the following questions arise:

What are our biases? What are the default frames through which we see the world? How can they be adjusted to better serve ourselves and others?

If our biases inevitably color the way we interpret and experience the world, it follows that a primary focus of life should be to assess and reset our biases.

In the penetrating words of the Rebbe to an individual who was wont to complain about his life circumstances:

In our world, everything is a mixture of good and bad. Human beings must choose which aspects they will emphasize, contemplate, and pursue...

How instructive is that which our Sages tell us, that Adam was an ingrate. Even before he was banished from the Garden of Eden, [while living in a literal paradise] he complained about his circumstances. On the other hand, there were Jewish men and women who thanked and blessed the Creator and recited the morning blessings while living through the most horrifying times in the German concentration camps. Ultimately, everyone’s circumstances will be somewhere between these two extremes….

My point [in saying this is not to admonish you; it] is simply to underscore the reality [that]:

The type of lives that we live, whether full of satisfaction and meaning or the opposite, depends, in large measure, on our willpower, which dictates whether we will focus on the positive or on the negative.2

Our perspectives are so powerful, they can lead us to find fault with Paradise or to express gratitude even while in a state of extreme suffering.

In a rare personal disclosure to one of his Chasidim and a trusted confidante, R. Berel Junik,3 the Rebbe once alluded to his focus on seeing things positively as stemming from his harrowing past, saying, “I worked on myself to [always] look at things in a positive light; otherwise I could not have survived.”

This deceptively simple statement encapsulates the basic premise of this book; namely, that living a life of positivity is a matter of choice, not circumstance, and derives from perspective, not personality.

It is not the events of our lives that shape us, but the meanings we assign to those events.

In other words: If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Ultimately, the greatest testing grounds for any theory is the Laboratory of Life.

And that is what makes this book on positivity different from many. For if, as the saying goes, history is philosophy teaching through examples, this book teaches the philosophy of positivity by way of a living example, demonstrating how the Rebbe interacted with real people reacting in real time to real-life situations.

It is important to note that the redemptive perspectives presented in this book are not those of a man who lived a life of peace and privilege. They are the insights of a man who lived through waves of pogroms, the killing fields of World War I, a typhus epidemic, a refugee crisis, the persecution and forced exile of his father, whom he never saw again, the Bolshevik Revolution, the rise of Communism, World War II, the brutal murder of his brother, grandmother, and numerous other relatives at the hands of the Nazis, and a life of childlessness.

They are the teachings of a man who personally absorbed and carried the crushing pain of hundreds of thousands of individuals who sought him out for healing, comfort, love, acceptance, help, and sometimes, simply a reason to live.

And finally, they are the working principles of a man who made an active choice to consciously curate a philosophy and habits of thought, speech, and action—firmly rooted in 3,000 years of Jewish wisdom, understanding and knowledge that all coalesce into what we refer to in this book as the Rebbe’s “Positivity Bias.”

Once pointed out, the Rebbe’s Positivity Bias is impossible to miss. As the hundreds of stories, letters, anecdotes, and vignettes in the following pages bring to life, the Rebbe’s Positivity Bias illuminated every corner of his thoughts, every nuance of his speech, and infused his every action, reaction, and interaction with the power of Positive Living.

Ultimately, however, this book was not written to tell the story of one man’s courageous effort to design a life of positivity despite the dark and difficult times in which he lived, nor does it seek to detail how he inspired a global task-force of dedicated “lamplighters” to share his message of positivity and providence with every person they encountered along their path.

Instead, this book aims to provide you, dear reader, with the principles and practices, wisdom and tools, insights and inspiration that will empower you to personalize, internalize, and actualize your very own Positivity Bias.

Each chapter, each story, and each teaching contained within these pages is but another key to access your higher vision, and to open your eyes to a better and brighter world.

Mendel Kalmenson

28 Sivan 5779