It Depends How You Look At It

Once Rabbi Eliezer Silver needed a tenth man for the afternoon service, the sun was going to set soon and then it would be too late. He gently approached a holocaust survivor and asked him to join his group for the prayer and the man got furiously angry and forcefully refused. The rabbi was curious about the offense taken as he hadn’t intended to offend the man so he asked him why he was so angry. The man answered that when he was in the camps a Jew smuggled a Book of Psalms into the camp and charged people a piece of their bread for the pleasure of praying from the book. His heart filled with hatred for the evil opportunist that man was and ended up hating all things related to religion because of it.

Rabbi Silver listened to the story and his eyes lit up and he answered gently with love: “I’m impressed with the greatness of all those Jews who were prepared to part with their bread though they were starving just to be able to say the Psalms!!”

The man, bitter until then about what he saw, was shocked at the different way the rabbi saw this episode and within a few minutes they both walked to the synagogue for the afternoon service.

This story is an amazing example of how two people can see the same episode and reach two totally different conclusions. Understanding this difference can enable a person to change the way he looks at things and allow himself to acquire the trait of a positive eye, looking at things positively. This will enrich his life and he will happy always.

Speak kindly, you’ll be kind

In the book “Duties of the Hearts” (Gate of Inquiry, Chapter 5) Rabbenu Bachya teaches us that the tongue id the quill of the heart and a person’s speech affects his thoughts and emotions. This means that if a person accustoms himself to speak kindly about the world and distances himself from negative speech about any creature, he turns to a kind person in his essence, his thoughts change in accordance with his speech and the external action has effect on the internal emotions.  

A person should realize that a thought isn’t an automatic response of the mind rather a person can control his thoughts and train himself to think properly. The accumulation of negative thoughts and emotions about the evil in the world contaminates and poisons the person from inside. Internal pleasantness can be acquired by looking positively at the world and speaking kindly about the world, your wife or your husband. Such speech purifies the personality and he becomes a happier person, healthier in mind and body.

A person who allows himself to keep looking negatively at his surroundings poisons himself whereas a person who trains himself to look at the world positively and see the good in people, especially in the people in his family, he will merit a life of happiness along with his family.

An exercise to develop a positive eye

Here’s some advice on how to acquire a positive eye to see everything around you, especially your spouse, in a positive light.

1) First write down all of your spouse’s positive traits. Leave a space after each positive trait on the paper. After you complete the list you will write in an episode, something your spouse did that demonstrates that positive trait. This little addition of the episodes of your spouse’s good deeds will greatly reinforce his/her desirable traits in your mind.

2) Next, choose which trait your spouse is outstanding in and may even exceed you in that trait. You will suddenly discover that not only does your spouse have such good traits that you may have taken for granted, he/she also far surpasses you in certain traits that you would like to have for yourself too!

3) Only after this, you can start to look for the good inside what you think are your spouse’s bad traits. For example: You may think your spouse is apathetic about you or the kids. You can now look at the flip side and say this trait also means he doesn’t easily get angry when things don’t go his way or during times that could be tense.

In this way you through changing the way you look at things you will cultivate a new outlook full of positivity which is but a short step to happiness in your marriage and family.


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