Q: My daughter has gone overseas and no longer lives a religious lifestyle. I am very upset about this, but she is so far away and I can’t really speak with her about these matters. How can I help her return to religion and connection with God – and not alienate her even more?
A: There is a Talmudic dictum that states that "machshava mo'elet" – one's thoughts and intentions can have a tangible effect upon some halachic reality. This concept is interpreted more expansively by the Chassidic masters. The 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak ob"m, cited this principle in support of the idea that one can overcome natural limitations through the power of thought, especially as regards helping other souls release themselves from situations of oppression or captivity. One of the most fundamental teachings of the Baal Shem Tov states: "In whatever place one's thoughts are directed, that is where one actually is." Hence physical distance need not impede one's ability to forge a spiritual connection that produces tangible effects.
Everyone has had the experience of sensing someone staring at them even when hidden from view. If visual concentration can produce such an effect, how much more so the spiritual concentration of thought. Two souls separated by both time and distance can suddenly find themselves "face to face" when re-oriented through the power of thought. By lovingly concentrating on another, one is in essence offering up a prayer that inspires God to react compassionately toward that person as well. For this reason, the great Chassidic masters would devote time to simply sitting and thinking about their Chasidim. This is not unlike a busy executive who interrupts his routine to fondly gaze at the photos which he keeps of his loved ones.