For the week ending 6 July 2019 / 3 Tammuz 5779


by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Melech

Dear Rabbi,

I have read about the results of a process called “affirmations.” The details are that you set yourself a goal, and you write down that goal 15 times on a piece of paper every day. For example, “I will become a famous soccer player.”

According to the person who referred me to the technique, he has had spectacular success with it. And it’s not just that it makes you more focused. Almost every affirmation he did was realized through some strange “co-incidences”. According to him, events that would have been totally out of his control just started happening, until his previously unlikely goal was made a reality.

He’s not a religious person, but he acknowledges that it may have effects similar to prayer. For example, he says that research shows that sick people whom are prayed for are much more likely to recover than those who aren’t, even if the sick people themselves are unaware that others are praying for them.

So here’s my dilemma: If Hashem created a mechanism such as “affirmations,” is it wrong to use it? It seems somehow to be circumventing the “natural” order of things. Or maybe it is a natural force that just wasn’t documented for the last 5760-plus years? I am confused. Part of me says “Go on!” while another part says “Wait, this might not be good.” What are your thoughts?

Dear Melech,

There doesn’t seem to be a problem with what you describe as “affirmations.” It appears to be simply using the “natural” power of mind over matter. It may seem supernatural because we usually only use a fraction of our brains, and this taps into normally latent natural powers of the brain.

There are two explanations for the “supernatural coincidences” you might encounter while using “affirmations.” One is that, with your mind focused on the goal, you notice opportunities you would have otherwise missed. It’s like when a person buys a used car, he suddenly notices a lot of cars with “for sale” signs. “What a coincidence,” he thinks. “A lot of people are selling their cars just now when I happen to want to buy one.”

Another explanation is indeed a “supernatural” one. As the Talmud says “A person is directed (by Heaven) in the way he wishes to go.”

The Mishneh Berurah says to say “In honor of the Holy Shabbat” every time you buy something for Shabbat, since “speech has a powerful effect in matters of holiness.”

So, pick a good goal, and then use “affirmations” to achieve it. And remember: You WILL succeed, you WILL succeed....

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