Appreciating What Is Good: A Message From Our President & CEO

Shalom Chaverim,

Ayin Tov, a good eye…
I received a book in the mail last week from Rabbi Zalman and Nechama Tiechtel called Positivity Bias by Mendel Kalmenson. It is about wisdom for positive living inspired by the life and teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Did you ever receive a gift that was exactly what you needed? This book was that for me.
Many of us tend to naturally focus on the negative: “According to neuroscientists, our brains have developed specialized circuits that register negative experiences immediately in emotional memory so that we can learn from them. On the other hand, most positive experiences flow through the brain like water through a sieve; we experience them, enjoy them, and quickly forget them.”

Therefore, our “negativity bias” ensures that experiences of a more negative nature have more impact since their effect on our psychological state and consequent behavior is greater, even if the intensity of our positive and negative experiences is the same.
So basically, it is easier to see the glass half empty rather than half full. I have found that especially so during these turbulent and uncertain times. I find I often ruminate on the pandemic, the civil unrest, whether our Annual Campaign will meet its goal, will my friends, family, and our community continue to stay vigilant in the fight against COVID-19, and on and on…

The writings in this book helped me refocus and see things through a different lens. It doesn’t change the negative things going on but it empowers and inspires me to see my life through a positivity bias. “When your eye, your lens on life, is good, what you see will be good no matter what.” That’s ayin tov – appreciating what is good rather than focusing on what is wrong.
This is especially true in relationships. On a good day, interpersonal relationships are complicated with a multitude of points of view and narratives. Imagine how positive and kind our daily interactions would be if we viewed them with ayin tov, a good eye.

Kabbalah teaches us that speech itself has an effect beyond the simple event. Our words have impact. We need to think before we speak. The Torah forbids speaking or even listening to lashon hara, gossiping or any kind of detrimental speech. This is all embedded in our Jewish teachings.
Having this mindset doesn’t come naturally for most. It’s not that we don’t try but we often go back to our default mode. It’s our protective mechanism. We want to know what is coming down the pike, protect ourselves, and yes, be right! I must admit that this way of thinking can be very exhausting, always waiting for the next shoe to drop. So, I’ve decided to dwell on the  positive as I believe that positivity is a choice. It’s a mindset.
For me, I am grateful that my family is healthy, I have stimulating and rewarding work, and our community is working together to help those in need. Each one of our agencies and congregations have adapted to working virtually and are focused on meeting the needs not only of the most vulnerable but of everyone in their orbit, as we are all affected by these unsettling times. Many of us are anxious, uncertain, and even scared. We all need positive words of encouragement. We all need chesed, acts of loving kindness.
So, as you welcome in Shabbat this week,  reflect on how you interact with others. Be patient, listen, and use a positivity bias when working with others. Be cognizant of the gifts you have each day. Reach out, say thank you, be grateful. Our world is complicated enough, so make others’ loads easier by seeing and sharing life through an ayin tov and a warm and welcoming heart.
Enjoy the 4th of July holiday and, as the fireworks blaze the sky, let yourself be grateful for all you have and all those around you.

Shabbat Shalom,