One of the new holidays that has gained traction due to internet calendars is “Positive Thinking Day,” celebrated this year on September 13th. With only three days left until Rosh Hashana, Jewish Treats can think of no better time of year to highlight the important message of positive thinking.
From a Jewish perspective, positive thinking not only means believing in one’s self and focusing on happy, positive thoughts. It reflects a world-view that everything that God does is for the good. This ideology is beautifully enunciated in the common Hebrew phrase: gam zu l’tova, “This, too, is for the good.”
The phrase was codified into Jewish tradition by the Talmudic sage known as Nachum of Gamzu (or Nachum Ish Gamzu), who was called so “because whatever befell him he would declare, ‘This, too, is for the good” (Taanit 21a). He even declared this when he faced the wrath of the emperor for presenting the emperor with a bag of dirt (unknowingly, as the jewels that were supposed to have been in the bag had been stolen).
The concept of “gam zu l’tova” is applicable to all aspects of life. For example when a person gets stuck at a railroad crossing waiting for a train to pass, rather than cursing fate, one might think that this delay perhaps saved their lives from a traffic accident on the next block.
As Rosh Hashana approaches, it is customary for people to look back and review the year that has passed. When evaluated, incident for incident, some years look better than others. Almost every person can, however, recognize that our lives are filled with many events that seem negative at the time that they occur, but turn out to be important juxtapositions in one’s life.
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