Ask the Rabbi with Rabbi YY Schochet

How Do I Overcome My Negativity?

Dear Rabbi

I feel as if I am at a dead end in life. I live with my wife and three kids in New Jersey. There is nothing wrong with my marriage; she’s a good wife and mother. I have a decent job and earn well. But for some reason I am always feeling down, seeing the negative in everything. I have certain struggles that I won’t get into which make me feel unaccomplished. But why am I such a pessimist? I feel like I’m losing out in life.


Dear Nathan

When you have a few moments take a minute, close your eyes and think about something that makes you sad; that really gets you down. Then spend another minute thinking about something that makes you really happy. Then ask yourself which one outweighs the other. I reckon, in ninety-nine percent of the time, it’ll be the happy overriding the sad. So why let the sad grip you when you can pause, reflect on your bigger picture – a wonderful family and good job, your health etc. and let that be your guide.

As you’re American you’ll appreciate this analogy: A little boy is overheard talking to himself as he strutted through his back garden, wearing his baseball cap and toting a ball and bat. “I’m the greatest hitter in the world,” he announced. Then, he tossed the ball into the air, swung at it, and missed. “Strike One!” he yelled. Undaunted, he picked up the ball and said again, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world!” He tossed the ball into the air. When it came down he swung again and missed. “Strike Two!” he cried out. The boy then paused a moment to examine his bat and ball carefully. He spit on his hands and rubbed them together. He straightened his cap and said once more, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world!” Again he tossed the ball up in the air and swung at it. He missed. “Strike Three!” “Wow!” he exclaimed… “I’m the greatest pitcher in the world!”

Your attitude determines how circumstances impact your life. The little boy’s circumstances hadn’t changed, but his optimistic attitude prompted him to give an encouraging meaning to what had happened.

Whenever we go through life feeling a little restless, or even when encountering hardships, we need to ask ourselves, “Can I do something to change my circumstances?” If the answer is “yes,” then what are you waiting for? Make the necessary changes. If you can’t change the circumstance, however, change your attitude and you’ll discover that circumstances won’t have the last word.

You mention struggles which somehow impact on you. I don’t know what they are but you need to remember that success is measured not by what you accomplish. It’s measured by the opposition you encounter and the courage with which you maintain your struggle against the odds. 

So figure out within yourself what the struggles are, determine how you can overcome them, and most of all, work on your attitude. Open your eyes to the blessings and good fortune in your life.

Why Do Smart People Believe in G-d?

Dear Rabbi

I am one of those who pick up the paper just to read your column (I actually switched papers just to keep following you). I admire your wit and wisdom but when you get a little too religious for my liking, e.g. you start talking G-d and faith, I get annoyed. Surely, a clever man like you knows that G-d is just a figment of many people’s imagination and, no disrespect intended, it provides a living for you and other clergymen.


Dear Tracey

Thank you for your flattery and I admire your candour. Here’s a little story for you: In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

“Nonsense,” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”
The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be greater light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

The first baby replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”

The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”

Again the first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover, if there is life, then why has no one ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery, there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” countered the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”

The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”

The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her, this world would not and could not exist.”

Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”

To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”

Think about it Tracey.