| A Gift Passed Along |

The Only Thought

I printed that email in full and laminated it, and it hangs on my fridge to this day

My parents gave me the gift of positive thinking. Whatever the problem, my father a”h would cite the Chassidic dictum, tracht gut vet zein gut – think good and it will be good. When I had a real crisis several years ago, my mother observed me one morning looking glum. “What’s the matter with you?” she said lovingly but firmly. “Where’s your bitachon? Tracht gut!” In that moment I resolved to change my mindset. Ultimately, that changed my reality in ways I could never have foreseen.

When my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness, I sent him an email. “I don’t know what to say other than what you always tell us, tracht gut vet zein gut,” I wrote. His response an hour later included the following: “That must be the only thought and slogan, and meant with full trust in hatov vehameitiv lakol ubakol, without allowing even the slightest trace of atzas hayeitzer to be chas vesholom beatzvus. The sign of true bitochon is continuous simcha which trumps everything.” I printed that email in full and laminated it, and it hangs on my fridge to this day.

This gift of positivity that my parents inculcated within me enables me to communicate the same to others. On an almost daily basis I encounter people who fret about their personal problems or are frightened about life’s bigger issues. Being able to share a more optimistic approach gives others a lift and enables them to see things from a different perspective.



Last week, I sat with family members whose father lay critically ill, in a coma. The medical prognosis was dire and they began discussing with me the practicalities of a shiva in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic. I stopped them mid-conversation. “With all due respect, we are not having this conversation. As long as there is life, there is hope.” They shrugged sheepishly and acquiesced. Last night I received a call telling me that their father was sitting up in bed, sipping tea.

Few things in life are more powerful than a positive perspective. Good thoughts affect our reality more than we realize. You might not believe this is true, and even if you do, it’s easy to forget, especially when life throws its worst curve balls. It’s hard to stay positive when your world appears to be coming apart at the seams. But this is when tracht gut is most vital, because our perceptions, to a large extent, determine our reality.

Rabbi YY Schochet is the rabbi of the Mill Hill Synagogue in London and an international speaker.

(Originally featured in A Gift Passed Along, Special Supplement: Pesach 5780)

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