The Garden of Emuna is an extremely doctrinaire Bratslav book. HaShem is good, therefore everything that happens to us is good, no matter how bad it may seem. I have nothing against this particular religious perspective. Very often negative events in our life, down the road, flower into positives. Of course, there are the extreme cases like dead children and the Holocaust. But Rabbi Arush more or less steers away from these cases, and for good reasons.
Bad things happen to us because we do not have sufficient emuna – or faith. It is not HaShem’s fault, but our fault that bad things came our way. But Rabbi Arush gets himself into a little trap: the obstacles that life brings our way are for our own good, in that surmounting them helps us build more emuna. Yet the obstacles came because as punishment for our lack of emuna. No matter what the case, Rabbi Arush sees any bad occurrence as springing from a lack of emuna – no matter how much you claim you have emuma, if you suffer, in Rabbi Arush’s calculus, it is your own fault.
Yet another issue: Rabbi Arush claims we can get nearly anything we want if we pray with sufficient intensity. We didn’t get it? We’ll, you did not pray enough. You pray some more and still have cancer, well, still not enough. Pray more for remission.
This book does have some of the nourishing spiritual fare I associate with Bratslaver Hasidim (which has influenced my Jewish practice enormously) especially in chapter four. Yet this book, for all its talk about being always positive, is stern and puritanical. So, I warn you, this book is not for people with poor self-esteem. You will come away from this work with a profound feeling of guilt and inadequacy.