Positive Praise

Rabbi’s Thoughts
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Recently, The New York Times published an article by David Leonhardt entitled, “Is bad news the only kind?” In it, Leonhardt notes that almost all the news throughout the pandemic was negative.

“When COVID cases were rising in the US, the news coverage emphasized the increase. When cases were falling, the coverage instead focused on those places where cases were rising. And when vaccine research began showing positive results, the coverage downplayed it.”

He continues that US media are outliers in their overwhelming bias towards negative news. Still, he defends the media, claiming that they aren’t distorting the news as much as choosing to emphasize the negative over the positive. He adds that the American consumer seems to prefer reading negative news over positive news, so the news outlets are only providing what the consumer is seeking.

In a lecture given on September 19, 2003, the late radio broadcaster Paul Harvey recounted that he’s often asked why newsmen don’t report more good news instead of all of the tragedy, destruction, discord, disaster, and dissent they always report about. He explained, “My own network, ABC, once tried broadcasting a program of just good news. You know how long that lasted? Thirteen weeks. Not enough listeners wanted just good news.

In Sacramento, California, a little tabloid called itself The Good newspaper, and printed just good news; it lasted 36 months before it went bankrupt. As far as I have been able to ascertain, there’s only one newspaper in the USA today printing just good news. It’s a little tabloid, comes out once a week in Indiana, and they have to give it away, because that good news that you all keep saying you want just won’t buy. And that’s why you can listen to any broadcast, and records are crashing and it’s the worst wind and the worst flood or fire or earthquake or whatever, because noise news makes news, and... sin makes news, and one a gunshot makes more noise than a thousand prayers. It doesn’t mean it’s more important, just that it sells more newspapers.”

By nature, we are more inclined towards negativity than positivity. Dennis Prager noted that we all suffer from “missing tile syndrome.” If someone is sitting in a room, looking up at a tiled ceiling, and there is one tile missing, that’s where he focuses his vision. He doesn’t notice all the other perfect tiles.

Prager notes that doing so undermines our happiness, because we are always focusing on the missing tiles in our lives. Our choice is whether we focus on the tiles we do have, or on the ones we’re missing. The answer to that question largely determines how happy we feel.

The night of the Seder is devoted to praising Hashem and expressing gratitude for the myriad miracles He performed throughout the process of Y’tzias Mitzrayim.

The Midrash (Sh’mos Rabbah 6:4) writes that the Four Cups of wine correspond to four decrees that the nation was subjected to during the exile and were redeemed from.

The Matnot Kahuna explains that the four decrees were their being forced to perform backbreaking labor, all male babies being cast in the Nile, slaughtering the children so Pharaoh could bathe in their blood, and when the Egyptians stopped providing straw for the bricks.

Rav Matisyahu Salomon points out that all of those decrees were enacted and stopped well before the nation actually left Egypt. This symbolizes to us that we must not only celebrate and express gratitude when a challenging situation is completely remedied. Rather, we must be thankful for every step and modicum of salvation along the way.

How poignant is that message for us at the current time! During the last year, we have all lived through a traumatic and challenging ordeal. Yet, within the darkness there was noticeable chesed from Hashem.

It wouldn’t be too difficult to write a Dayeinu-like paragraph including all the glimmers of light we have experienced during this period of darkness.

The fact that vaccinations are being disseminated at a dizzying pace with hopes of a return to normalcy sooner rather than later is itself astounding. That for some reason the virus relatively didn’t affect the youth was also an incredible chesed from Hashem. That we were able to at least communicate remotely via Zoom and the like, mitigated somewhat the emotional pain of isolation.

And the fact that we were able to return to our yeshivos and continue to teach our children in person to the extent possible is something not to be taken lightly.

After over a year of not having in-person classes, public school teachers are still vying to remain remote. Only now are they getting ready to allow 25% capacity in the classroom. Yet, throughout this time, we have done all in our power to ensure the continued education of our children.

Prior to makat Arov, Moshe warned that Hashem would “place a separation between my nation and your nation.” During the past months, those words have come to life. Our children have grown tremendously despite the painful predicament. They saw how much we prioritize their chinuch, even while public schools remained shut. That’s an invaluable lesson.

The night before the Exodus, our ancestors held the first Seder with the Korban Pesach, matzah, and maror.

If maror is eaten as a reminder of the pain of the servitude, why did the Jews have to eat maror at their Seder the night before Y’tzias Mitzrayim? Did they need a reminder of the painful slavery and body-breaking work they had endured for decades?

Rav Avigdor Nebenzhal explains that the Jewish servitude ended six months before the actual Exodus (see Rosh Hashanah 11a). Six months is more than enough time for people to forget how things were. Just look at how quickly the Egyptians “forgot about Yosef” and began to persecute the Jews.

Although the pandemic is not over, we have reason to be hopeful for the immediate future. We dare not just return to the way things were before. Unfortunately, human nature is that we quickly forget and move on. But when significant events occur – for good or for better – we must take note of it, learn from it, and grow from it.

The Jewish people not only seek to remember the matzah and the Korban Pesach, but we also seek to remember the maror, and we thank G-d for all of it. But the first step is to recognize the Hand of G-d in every step of the way.     


Rabbi Dani Staum LMSW is the Rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead, as well as a rebbe and Guidance Counselor at Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, NJ, Principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor, and a Division Head at Camp Dora Golding. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Looking for “Instant Inspiration” on the parsha in under 5 minutes? Follow him on www.Torahanytime.com.