Rabbi Wein.com The Voice of Jewish History

Rabbi Wein’s Weekly Blog
 Printer Friendly


 One of the hallmark traits of Judaism is a spirit of optimism. Since oftentimes optimism flies in the face of reality and the factual situations we face, like all human traits, it is to be applied judiciously, in moderation and with a great deal of good common sense. Nevertheless, optimism is a permanent state of mind. Even in dark moments when our optimistic mood and hopes are dashed, optimism should never disappear completely from the arsenal of emotions that comprise our personality.

Optimism is found in the grand words of King David that, “even though I walked in the valley of death, I shall not fear evil.” Judaism is built upon the foundation that somehow there will be a better tomorrow and that in spite of all of the horrendous events that afflicted the Jewish people over the centuries, people will prove to be most resilient and come to experience better days and more exalted times. When we are numbed by personal and familial tragedy there is a natural tendency for self-pity, depression and a paralysis of spirit and soul to take hold. It is precisely at such a time that the traditional Jewish trait of optimism is meant to kick in and restart our lives so that we can continue to pursue the mission for which we were created and given life. I know that all of this is much easier said than done but in no way does that nullify the idea and goal that is being espoused.
Optimism is never based upon facts alone. Whatever tactics or strategy one may have employed to obtain success in overcoming past challenges and problems are patently of no value in facing a current challenge or problem. What is necessary is the recurring spirit that optimism provides, so that this current challenge can somehow be overcome even if the methods for so doing are not immediately visible. The only explanation, speaking purely in human terms, for the rise in the existence of the Jewish people as a whole and particularly the state of Israel, after the horrible events of the 20th century is the presence of optimism within the Jewish nation that allowed it to transcend this reality.
This is what makes the events of the last three quarters of a century so important, and so telling in our own current lives. All resilience is based on optimism. It allows us to absorb countless blows and disappointments and yet continue to function and accomplish, build and hope. Optimism is not a denial of reality, but rather as the proper method of dealing with such reality. The old cliché about making lemonade out of the lemons that beset us in life has a great deal of wisdom and truth to it. I think the Jewish people, are the primary lemonade manufacturers that the world has ever seen.
The ultimate projection of optimism into our lives is seen in marriage, rearing children and building families and generations. Some of today’s extremists in the progressive Left in Europe and the United States have publicly advocated that because of the problems that humanity faces socially and weather-wise it is counterproductive and even criminally wrong to bring children into this world. But the nature of children from the moment they leave their mothers womb is to be busy and optimistic. Children always look forward to the future. They say they are 6 ½ years old because they want to push ahead and are not satisfied to be just six years old. They are the wellspring of optimism that nurtures society and pushes it ahead.
We live in a time when murdering children for the convenience of adults is accepted practice and legally protected. Is it any wonder that the world is a far sadder place than it was a century ago and that all politics is now based upon tearing down and finding fault. Rare is the leader today who speaks about the future without demeaning and downplaying any accomplishments of the present. Such an attitude destroys any spirit of optimism in a people, leaving them prone to demagoguery and extremist ideas. The Torah always preached balance in all areas of life. That is true regarding the opposite poles of optimism and reality. But without optimism and a substantial dose of it, our future would be extremely bleak.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

Subscribe to our blog via email or RSS to get more posts like this one.