All is God
God is good
All is good

This is called a “syllogism.”

In an earlier post, I related an experience I’d had repeating this syllogism for a prolonged period.

https://rabbielimallon.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/6-15-11-a-meditation-at-wave-hill/

Repeating it in order to mentally argue with it or doubt it would have been an “intellectual” exercise: an activity limited to my intellectual functioning. The intellectual part of my mind would have been evaluating the details and inferences, but my heart would have remained unmoved; uninspired.

In the experience I reported, I repeated the syllogism over and over, uncritically. I simply allowed the words to affect me on their own. Nor did I attempt to “believe” it using only my own willpower (which again would employ only a limited aspect of my mind).

This way, the “syllogism” became an “affirmation.” 

In another post, I related the story of the Tzemach Tzedek, who told a hasid: “Think good and it will be good.”

https://rabbielimallon.wordpress.com/2011/01/16/hasidut-and-positive-words

He was telling the hasid: Your positive thoughts will have a positive effect on your child’s health! 

In my own life, I believe that everything that has happened or is happening is for the good:
gam zu“Gam zu l’tovah: This too is for the good.” It’s not always my first reaction, to be sure. But it’s my fundamental belief. Faced with a problem, I can often reflexively react with worry, anger or fear. But I then immediately begin working on adjusting my reaction, to find the peace that faith promises. One thing I learned from Jewish Science (especially the teachings of Rabbi Morris Lichtenstein) is a “structured approach” to “emunah” (faith).

As I said above, it’s not just about making a “positive” statement once or twice and then continuing to worry, fear, etc. The thoughts of worry, etc. continue. They arise from that part of my mind which reacts only to what the eyes see or the ears hear, and so on.

To overcome them, I must draw on a level of my mind that isn’t limited to what “is” or appears to be so. I don’t “disprove” the appearance of what is. I draw on what can be, which requires using my imagination. I have to open my imagination to all the unlimited good that can be. On a deeper level, I use the same method to come to see even the current “bad” as the the “good” — just as the Talmud says: In the future, only the brachah “Ha-Tov v’Ha’Mei’tiv” — “[God] is Good and Does Good” — will be said, because all will be seen as only good. 

One key to doing this: Repetition.

Just as I repeated that syllogism/affirmation over and over for hours, so we must repeat the idea that God is good and does only good (however we form the statement) over and over, if we would experience the peace that faith offers. 

It’s also true, though, that with time, we might not have to repeat it as much for it to affect us. I suppose that neural pathways are built in the brain, as with any other “learning.” This causes something to happen with decreasing effort.

Think of learning to play the piano (for example). At first, moving the fingers as desired can be an arduous task. The dreaded, boring, repetitive “exercises” develop our facility to move the fingers anywhere we want them to go, without conscious effort. The study of the brain has shown us that repeated movements, such as those prescribed in the exercises, build more and more neural pathways — connections between different parts of the brain — until one’s fingers move freely. It’s true of all learning.

I make the point here that it’s no less true of “having faith,” if we use a structured method to do that. We can “practice” it, “improve” at it, if we repeat it over time. But the positive statement can even “out-shout” the negative statements in our minds, if we repeat those positive statements enough in any given instance. Parenthetically, this is also where a structured approach to having faith can overlap with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) — the science of choosing positive thoughts to moderate our feelings. 

Doris Friedman, one of my teachers in Jewish Science, was a direct student of Mrs. Tehillah Lichtenstein. Tehillah had trained Doris as a “Jewish Science Practitioner.” Doris once told me that Tehillah said of visualizations: “You have to do them so deeply that if you visualize yourself on a hot summer beach, you actually begin to perspire.”

Your eyes or sense of touch (regarding the temperature in the room) might tell you that you’re sitting in an air-conditioned room. But if you give greater attention to the mental image of being on a hot beach, your mind reacts to the image more than to the sensory information, and produces the corresponding physical response.

The mental image must become more prominent – more real to your mind — than the information that the eyes and ears (i.e. the senses) are giving. Repetition — not mental effort or willpower — is the way to achieve this. At least until sufficient neural pathways are built so that even prolonged repetition is unnecessary.

In this post, I address how we can moderate our feelings about an event with faith (emunah/bitachon) by repeating a positive statement for a prolonged period.

The Tzemach Tzedek suggests that the same method can be used to create the positive effect on any condition — physical; financial; etc.

To paraphrase the Tzemach Tzedek: We must “think good” to the point that the “good” overwhelms and obliterates any other thoughts in our minds. This good then manifests as the desired outcome. This can be accomplished by repetition.

I believe this in theory. In practice, I’ve certainly reduced symptoms of physical ailments this way. In one instance, I relieved a migraine I was having, by following Rabbi Lichtenstein’s directions for using visualization to reduce pain. It took over an hour.

Confidence in this method grows over time, based on how much we apply it.

I confess, I haven’t made regular, systematic efforts to address outer, “apparent” conditions. I think I’ve lacked total confidence in the method. But that confidence grows through repeated practice and experience.

I continue to grow in this practice, in the hope that I can eventually use it effectively for myself and others.

God is always the same. God’s power is always the same.

Perhaps I just need more neural pathways?