On Tuesday evening, March 26, the community gathered at Congregation Beit Eliyahu in Fresh Meadows to hear an uplifting shiur by Rabbi Benzion Klatzko, renowned speaker and Founder and Director of Shabbat.com. Rabbi Klatzko began by praising Chazaq for their incredible accomplishments, especially in brining Jewish children from public school to yeshivah. He mentioned the terrible numbers of Jews lost to assimilation and intermarriage, and he compared these statistics to Jews murdered during the Holocaust. He said, “Chazaq is pulling Jewish kids off the cattle cars, bringing them back to Yiddishkeit and klal Yisrael.”

Then, he shared how one negative comment can have terrible ramifications. It can change a person’s attitude towards you. ”The rule is simple. When you go negative, you lose almost always, even if you think you’re right – even if right is on your side.”

He taught that “the power of positivity is simply golden.” He urged, “Hold onto positivity. You can change almost everything.” He then shared how there are so many ways of looking at your life. “We control our happiness. Positivity and happiness are a decision.” He then shared a story about a large family he knew when he was a bachur learning in Israel. They had ten children in a two-bedroom apartment, and when he came for Shabbos there was very little food. What stood out for him was the way the mother addressed her children with so much love and in such a positive way. “Those kids had little food, but they were nourished on the loving comments of their parents.” He pointed out that negativity cuts a child down, while positivity builds him up. He urged parents to avoid criticism. “What a responsibility to be positive!”

It is so important to smile at children. When he returns from a long trip and just wants time to be alone, he strengthens himself to find time to give his children positive attention. “We have to understand how a positive moment with a parent can build a child. Our children need our time and our positivity.” Hashem would rather we spend a little less time with the klal and more with our children.

Next, he explored a disturbing fact that suicide is the number one killer of people in their late teens and 20s. How can this be, in a time and place where we have more material things than at any time in history? He taught that it must be because our society has become so negative and combative. We feel judged wherever we go. Sadly, we live in an age where people think negative thoughts more often than positive ones. He pointed out how social media gives a false impression of how everyone else’s life is so good. More and more, we lose the way to feel good about ourselves. He shared a teaching of Chazal that it’s a special mitzvah to be b’simchah. He said that to be b’simchah you must be positive, and then you’ll be happy. He then shared how we should appreciate that we are Yidden. “We are wonderful. There is nobody like us. No one else cares so much about each other.” He shared an amazing story that happened a few years ago. A huge group of college students were snowed in at Kennedy Airport on their way to Israel. When people in Far Rockaway and the Five Towns found out about this, even though it was a blizzard, they came with food, with boxes of pizza and doughnuts, and they came to transport the students to families.

He taught that we have a mitzvah to be positive and to greet each other with a smile. If we are positive on the outside, we will be positive on the inside. He continued, “A person has to have emunah. Everything Hashem does is for the best.” When Hashem gives us a hard test, we need to find the positive in it and not let it destroy us. The world, on the other hand, says in this situation you deserve to mope and groan. Negativity breeds negativity. The number one tool for being positive, he taught, is gratitude. Every day we recite the morning blessings, thanking Hashem for so many things. We should be cognizant of these blessings that Hashem gives us every day. He added, “Once you are grateful, you will learn to be kind.”

Lastly, he said, “We have to be positive about ourselves. That comes from the magical word, Yes.”

In life, many opportunities come, and we don’t jump. “It is brave and positive to allow opportunities to come your way.” The “I can” people are the ones who make a difference in the world.

Everyone left positively energized by this beautiful shiur, which can be viewed on TorahAnytime. The shiur was dedicated in memory of Eliyahu ben Istam.

By Susie Garber