Review by Ch, Maj Elie Estrin, USAFR
The unfortunate reality is that resilience has become a critical issue in the military, dominating the minds of commanders and first sergeants alike. “Fit to fight” is not just a slogan, and it is not just applicable to scores on one’s PT test. Perhaps as crucial as physical fitness to today’s service member is mental fitness, and we can all use as many tools as possible to assist ourselves and our wingmen to attain strength to overcome struggles. A recent publication gives deep insight into the human psyche, and delivers a significant amount of material towards helping the reader, and all those who the reader comes in contact with, to live a resilient life.
Positivity Bias is a collection of perspectives culled from anecdotes, letters and public talks of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe. As a young man, the Rebbe grew up in the shadow of pogroms, the Soviet revolution and both World Wars, eventually leading the Lubavitch movement out of the abyss of the Holocaust and Stalinist purges; yet he maintained an unbelievably positive philosophy in life, and shared that with the hundreds of thousands who sought his counsel. The essential line running through the book is the idea that one’s inner outlook impacts the world outside. He writes: “It isn’t that we must manage our thoughts to conform to or protect us from reality; the truth is that, whether we know it or not, we are molding reality in relation to our thoughts…” In that idea, the Rebbe melds the spiritual with the psychological, bringing the Talmudic idea of humans as “partners in creation” to an entirely new, eminently personal level.
Kalmenson leads the reader to explore internal struggles as well as inter-personal ones, while not ignoring the global and cosmic questions that many struggle with as well. What emerges is a clearer understanding of the relevance and applicability of the Jewish beliefs in G-d as the essence of goodness, and of the immediacy of purpose and meaning ala Dr. Viktor Frankl (who is the subject of chapter 3).
The staggering amount of material and anecdotes the author wished to conclude occasionally makes for disjointed reading. Despite that, each section can stand on its own as a daily or weekly meditation. Kalmanson helpfully occasionally summarizes integral points in italicized conclusions, but more consistency in this area would have been helpful.
While both Kalmanson and I are devotees of the Rebbe, leading to a certain amount of adulation prevalent, the value of such a book in today’s society cannot be underestimated.
Originally published in the Chanukah 2020 issue of the Jewish American Warrior.
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