What is Judaism’s take on the power of thought?
The Baál Shem Tov has handed us a profound principle. “Man is where his thoughts are.” Here, too, adopting this expression and applying it positively to your daily life can improve your life tremendously.
The Baál Shem Tov tells man: “Do you know where you are standing? You are wherever your thoughts are — you are on the level of whatever you are thinking about right now…, not where your physical body is.”
A simple example: Let’s imagine a holocaust survivor. All his relative were cruelly slaughtered and murdered. He is the only one who managed to survive and emigrate to Israel, where he established a family. Decades have passed. He is in a Jerusalem hall, participating in his grandson’s wedding. An orchestra is playing in the background; everyone is dancing with joy. Our Jew, the groom’s grandfather, sits and rests his head on his hands as he remembers his difficult past. He loses himself in ruminations, remembering how his entire family was killed, and in his mind’s eye he is reliving those horrors as he recalls all that happened and feels the bitter taste of persecution — the terrible pain — all over again.
Where does this man truly exist? Is he in Jerusalem at this moment in time, or is he reliving the horrors of Europe? He is living through the holocaust. He isn’t here. His physical body might be here, but he himself isn’t here, because man is where his thoughts are.
Thus, the actual concept — the idea that we should think good and then we shall feel good — is a valid point. But not to the extent that everything man wants, will come true.
Positive thinking has great power. It can lead a person to a feeling of joy, or dejection. It can help heal the soul, and even the physical body —and, ch”v, quite the opposite. Hashem’s intent is that His creation should live in joy, and serve Him happily at all times. And when man lives according to the will of Hashem, seeing life through the right perspective, making the effort he is meant to make, and feeling happy with his lot — then he is living the right kind of life, a good and joyful one.
Adapted from 'Man & His Universe' by Rabbi Zamir Cohen. Coming to you soon in English