No Fear of Failure, No Fear of Inadequacies


Did you ever wonder why some folks won’t even bother trying to be great, even though they have all the talents and opportunity to be great?  Sometimes, the reason is the fear of failure.  People are so afraid of falling, they don’t try climbing.

“Men fall in order to rise,” states the Zohar.  All people fall at some time.  The difference between a good person and a bad one is how they react to their falls.  The wicked fall seven times and get up six times.  The righteous fall down seven times and get up eight.  Everyone makes mistakes.  Everyone goes through slip-sliding times.  Sometimes, it is even necessary.

“Because I have fallen, I was able to stand up.  If I wouldn’t have sat in darkness, I wouldn’t notice the light.”  Have you ever backed up to take a great leap forward?  Sometimes, a fall allows us to leap a bit ahead, to see greatness all the more.  You’ll fall?  So what?  We all will, at some point.  Just make sure to get up! You got back up when you were toddler and tried walking the first time and fell smack on your rear, didn’t you?  That is why you are able to walk as an adult, because you got up after a fall and learned how to walk.  Spiritually, we will fall on our fannies at times.  It just means that we need to get back up and walk again.

There are times people give up their spiritual quests when racked with guilt.  “I’ve done something so wrong, lost an opportunity, lost, lost, lost!”  Such guilt is not healthy.  Rabbi Gedaliah Schorr, ZT”L explained why our enemies would always try to take away Rosh Chodesh[1] observance.  Rosh Chodesh is a symbol that shows us the power of being MeChadesh, of renewing ourselves, moving past our falls and mistakes.  The moon starts big, wanes and almost disappears…then reappears, round and full again.  We will sometimes not be the greatest we can be.  We might almost fade away.  Yet, we can always start again and build up to our full capacity again.  Taking away that concept makes us wallow in pasts, which is exactly what our enemies wished for us.  A person wallowing in guilt is like a man caught in a sinkhole of mud.  He becomes mired, unable to move on down his path.

We refer to G-d as “Mikva Yisroel[2]“.  Just as a Mikva purifies, Hashem purifies.  Mikva is from the same root as Tikva, hope.  We always have hope for future greatness, because Hashem purifies us, cleanses away our past mistakes.  Don’t ever give up in life because of a sense of guilt.  As Reb Nachman stated, “If you believe you can destroy something, believe you can fix it.”

Yehuda made a mistake[3], admitted to it, moved past it.  Dovid HaMelech made a mistake[4], admitted to it and moved past it.  Both of these men will be the forefathers of Moshiach.  Think of how profound a statement that makes to us.  Mistakes do not preclude you from greatness, as long as you admit to the mistakes and move on past them!

Rabbi Akiva once walked into Yeshiva in the best of moods.  “I was able to do the greatest kindness today,” he told his fellow students.  “I found a Mais Mitzvah, a dead body, just strewn out on the field.  There was no way I was going to leave the dead body there, so up on my back I heaved the corpse and carried it to the nearest cemetery and buried it.”

“Murderer,” said the other students.  “You did a wrong thing every step you took with the dead body.  A Mais Mitzva acquires its ground.  You were supposed to bury the dead man right where you found him.”

A less wise person would give up at this point.  How ludicrous to do a hard task, drag a corpse on one’s back for heaven only knows how many miles, and then be told you got it wrong!  A lesser man would throw up his hands and say, “That’s the last time I do any kind deed, if for every time there is something wrong with what I’ve done.”  Rabbi Akiva, however, was a greater man than most, wiser in his response to setbacks like this.  Rabbi Akiva was overjoyed.  He had learned the rules.  Now, if he came across a dead man, he’d know exactly what to do!  We, too, can be like Rabbi Akiva and use our mistakes as learning tools.

There are also times people give up because they don’t see the gains they are making.  “What’s the use,” they complain, “I can’t see myself accomplishing great things.  All I see are the struggles and the effort.  I’m not seeing results.”

In the Torah, there is a list of places where the Jews camped and how they traveled in the desert.  Ultimately, the Jews were journeying toward the land of Israel.  That was their end goal.  However, we must always remember, it is not just the end result that has value.  The journey itself has value…which is why the Torah saw fit to list the journey stops.

Rabbi Dessler explains that everybody is born in midst of things and dies in midst of things.  You cannot see to the end of time.  You can’t even see to the end of your own life.  How can you expect to always see results?  Results are happening, even though you might not see it in the here and now.  There are countless stories of results that took generations to come forth.

Think of the story of Rus.  Here she goes ahead, converts, follows her mother-in-law’s directions, marries Boaz…and is left a widow the next morning.  What did she gain by doing the right thing?  Could she see far into the future and see Dovid?  Could she see even further into the future and see Moshiach?  The gains for the Jewish people from Rus doing the right thing are immeasurable.  Yet, the results were completely hidden from Rus’s generation.  It seemed as if she had gained nothing by her hard choices.   Don’t worry, if you don’t see the results of your hard work.  They are not always instantly apparent.  Your children might see it.  Or sometimes your grandchildren.  Apparent or not, results do happen.  They just sometimes take a while to blossom.

There is a question as to whether the main commandment of lighting the Menorah is one of lighting or one of making sure it stays lit.  We’re taught the main commandment is to light it.  You have to do your work and not worry about the outcome.  Don’t always expect to see results.  Just provide the spark to start the flame burning.

When Hashem commanded the building of the Mishkan[5],  Moshe was mystified at the ordered task.  “How was it possible for humans to build a structure as G-d’s abode,” he questioned, ‘if we’re told that the whole of heavens cannot contain Him?”  How can you provide a finite place of rest for the Infinite?  Seeing Moshe’s confusion, G-d clarified.  “According to YOUR abilities I am asking,” said Hashem, “not according to MY ability.”  This lesson is appropriate for each of our lives.  Each person is only obligated to do as much as his or her ability allows.   The maximum of our talents and tools with a willing heart dedicated to G-d.  Not fearing failure.  Not wallowing in past mistakes.  And believing our best is adequate.  That is enough to make us really special people.

[1] Sanctification of the New Moon [2] the Ritual Bath used to transform from a state of impurity to a state of purity. [3] With respect to Tamar [4] In the incident with Batsheva [5] Tabernacle

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Parshas Kee Saytzay — No Dissing a Dead Body

This week’s Torah portion includes the instructions that we are to bury the dead body of the capital punishment prisoner.  Rashi explains why we are so careful in burying a person, even the person who gets the death penalty because “Adam Asoy Bidmus D’Yokano” Rashi 21:23 “for man is fashioned in G-d’s image.”

Every person was created “Btzelem Elokim” – “In the Image of Hashem.”  This “image of Hashem” aspect is the gift of free choice that Hashem gives us.  Hashem does not preprogram us, but allows us to choose our own destiny.  We, little created beings though we are, still have the choice to do what we want to with our lives.  The inherent value to a person is his/her ability to make choices (and by his/her choices, change the course of the world!)  Even the drunk, wallowing in his own dirt in a ditch, was not preprogrammed like a robot.  He had choice, which is considered to mirror G-d’s Image of free choice.

Never blame anyone else for your actions.  You and you alone have choice in your life.  Choose well, as it is a G-dlike attribute to be able to choose.

And…if a murderer gets respect, don’t you think then respect should be universal?  Think well of this lesson the next time you slight someone with an insult.  Remember, if the lowly drunk is exalted enough as to deserve respect, how much more so must we respect our acquaintances or our neighbors, who definitely have a large dose of Tzelem Elokim.  I personally think that the only person who can possibly disrespect others is someone whose own vision of him/herself is clouded, only someone who is unsure he/she can rise to great heights.  Because once you acknowledge your ability to be great, you realize others’ abilities to be great, too.  Mechilta Mishpatim claims the worst of thieves is the one who steals another man’s confidence.  Such a thief has taken away a person’s chance at greatness by making him feel he is too insignificant to rise and shine.

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The Song of the Fox

[Each force in nature sings a song of sorts.  And each one teaches us something.  And here, for the children (and for the child in all of us) is the fox narrative.]

Sneaky guy, creeping along trying to trick one and all

Plush red fur, so soft to touch, beautiful is the Shu’al

Slyly, wily, tiptoeing to find new ways to steal

Never has he earned his food, he robs for every meal

Oy, vah voy, what does he think, that happy this way he’d be

No way, my friend, no happiness can come from robbery

Shame on the one who builds a home full of lies and cheating

There is no good taste in anyone’s mouth, if stolen food you’re eating

Yaakov Aveenu was able to be honest even when a Lavan tricks him

And if someone steals, like the fox, Hashem will shortly fix him.

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Elul – Spatial Bend Brings Heavens Closer

Heavens touches earth this month, beginning today.  Think of a tall father bending over his small son and thereby allowing the son to reach his hand easily, letting his son see into his face.  There is a spatial bend whereby spiritual becomes a bit closer, a bit more attainable, where G-d makes Himself a bit nearer to us.

This time of love between us and G-d has been etched into existence by the fact that G-d forgave our sin of the Golden Calf and allowed our nation to recapture that which we had lost by giving us a second set of Luchos (tablets).  Today, Rosh Chodesh Elul, is the anniversary when Moshe ascended on high again to begin anew the process of getting us the Torah from on high.

A sad story: young girls coerced into relationships they did n0t want and then told they were prostitutes and pressured into that line of work.  One such girl is a mere fourteen years old, throwing up her hands in despair, telling her mentor that whatever she will do from now on won’t count anymore as “I’m a prostitute, anyway.”  Painted into a corner psychologically first by the predator and then by an unsupportive/judgmental family and community.  And I texted the mentor to tell that young girl thus:  “Rachav Hazonah married Yehoshua and merited to have many Nevi’im be her descendants, including Yirmiyahu Hanavi.”  Texted back the mentor, “Cool”.   It is way more than cool, my friends, it is downright awesome to have a reset button that ensures mistakes and sins don’t stay a stain upon us.

No past precludes any of us from being royalty.  No smallness of stature blocks our relationship with G-d in this month.  For G-d Himself bends down to us.  And if we but lift up our hands to Him, we get lifted up toward the waiting spiritual heights.


and for those who want a musical interlude:  Shuli Rand does his soul-searching Ayecka — a cry out to G-d — and the answer to that cry is this month – -G-d would answer Shuli, don’t ask where I am, I’m right here – -where are you?

Gutten Chodesh, everyone.

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Elul – a time for repentance

Elul – the last month before judgment.  Next month comes Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, when each member of mankind is judged for past year’s actions and decrees are written for the upcoming new year.  Elul is the acronym for “Anee L’dodee V’dodee Lee” [“I am for my Beloved’s and my Beloved is for me”].  Elul is a time of closer connection w/ G-d.

Concept of Jewish Calendar:  Ma’agal Hashana – the wheel of the year.  Based on past events, time has significance.  We don’t merely commemorate past events in Judaism (as does secular society in things like July Fourth).  Rather, Jews know that certain times have certain powers.  Elul in history was right after the Golden Calf incident and after Moshe had set things right by punishing the instigators.  When the Jews had messed up big time, Moshe broke the set of Luchos [tablets with Ten Commandments] to have the destruction be transferred from the people to an inanimate object.  G-d wanted to wipe out our entire nation and only leave Moshe alive.  Moshe begged Hashem to forgive the Jews.  Hashem agreed – and Moshe goes back up to Heavens for another forty days.  He leaves Rosh Chodesh Elul [first day of the month of Elul] and returns Yom Kippur.  So, in history, this time was a time of G-d giving us a second chance and forgiving us despite our horrible mistake.  Therefore, in every generation, this time of the year is a time to get a second chance from Hashem, to move past any mistakes we make.

If you get called into traffic court for speeding and you have a whole list of outstanding other parking tickets you didn’t yet pay, it would be smart to pay off all the tickets before standing in front of the judge.  It would give more of a chance for the judge to be lenient if you took care of everything else.  That is why we would be stupid not to use Elul to try to clear up our mistakes- -we know we have a judgment day in a month – before seeing the Judge and getting judged it is easier to take care of past mistakes.

Teshuva [repentance] –  how do you do it?  Teshuva means to return – return to the state of innocence your soul was in before you did the wrong deeds.  According to the Rambam there are four steps to the repentance process:  leave the sin, regret the sin, admit (must speak) the sin, and take upon yourself not to do it again.

For sins between man and man, there are additional steps – you must right the wrong (if you stole, you must give back money, etc) and you must ask the person for forgiveness.  G-d will not forgive, if the person you harmed does not forgive.

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All Good That G-d Gives



Heaps of delicious ingredients could go to utter waste

If a little bit of salt doesn’t coax out amazing taste

A big bucket of white paint can be still whiter when

A little bit of black is added to that paint can

Scents of blossoms and other aromas so delicate

Smell sweeter yet with a drop of whale vomit

Many are the blessings we once thought was a curse

Who then is to judge what is bad in our universe?

Based upon a lecture by Rabbi S. Green of


There is a verse that says “mee’pee Elyon Loh Saytzay Ha’raos” from the mouth of the Almighty does not come forth the bad.  There is no such thing as saying anything G-d does is bad.  In fact, we are told that we must make a blessing on the bad, just as we do on the good, for all is really, in essence good, though we might not see it with our limited vision.

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Age Old Questioning and Kvetching, “why do the good suffer?” and other attempts to try to understand a nonunderstandable G-d

“The Rock’s (Almighty) works are perfect, all His ways are just…there is no injustice…”

The statement that “life isn’t fair” isn’t a Jewish concept.  Hashem is perfect.  Therefore, anything He does is perfect.  We might not understand it, but that doesn’t mean it is unfair – it just means we see too little in life to understand the big picture.  Moshe Rabeinu at one point asked to “see Hashem”, meaning he wanted to understand G-d’s reasoning.  G-d explained to Moshe that no one can see Hashem, but Moshe gets a glimpse of G-d’s “back”.  What does this mean and what does Moshe see?  Moshe is shown a scene, a sort of movie at a private screening just for Moshe.  Here are the scenes Moshe saw:

A man is traveling in the woods and a highwayman comes along and kills him, then steals his wallet full of money.  The scene closes.  Then Moshe is shown another scene.  He sees two men, one an elderly tramp and another younger man.  They get into an argument, and the younger man kills the tramp.  A wallet falls out of the tramp’s pocket but the murderer doesn’t notice.  He is too panicked, trying to hide the body.  He finally hides the dead man and runs away from the area.  Moshe then sees a little boy come along and find the tramp’s wallet, which is stuffed with money, and the boy happily runs home with the money.  The scene ends.

Moshe is puzzled.  What is the meaning of this, he asks G-d.  Hashem explains that the tramp was the highwayman.  The wallet of money the little boy found was the original money stolen.  And the little boy was the son of the first murdered man, which means that the money rightfully belonged to him.  That is what is meant to see the “back” of Hashem – that looking back at history, sometimes we see glimpses of how Hashem rights the wrongs and passes judgment.  As Hillel said, “you were drowned because you drowned others and he who drowned you will be drowned.”

Our view is imperfect and that is why we think life is unfair.  G-d and His ways are perfect.  To the craziest tiniest degree.  Another example to help us undertand it.  Yirmiyahu was a prophet who had to tell the Jews that Hashem would exile and punish them, if they didn’t do Teshuva [repent].  He was not a very popular fellow, because the wayward folks wanted to continue doing immoral deeds.  So, at one point, some folks took Yirmiyahu and threw him into a pit full of slimy mud where he was slowly drowning.  Hashem had someone throw down a rope to him and he crawled out, hand over hand.  Now, if you ever did rope climbing, you would know that pulling yourself up on a rope is painful to the hands which become blistered and bleeding.  Yirmiyahu was mystified and he asked, “G-d, if you were saving me already, why not with a ladder, which would have been way more convenient for me.”  To which G-d replied, “Yirmiyahu, with what did your great-grandmother save the lives of the spies?  With a rope.  A rope for a rope is how I saved you.”  Yirmiyahu’s great-grandmother was Rachav HaZonah, and yes, she had saved the lives of the Jewish spies by lowering them from her roof with a rope.  G-d rewards and punishes with the tiniest details in place.  No one gets more than he deserves or less than he deserves in life.

“A G-d of faith without injustice…”  Rashi says that this means “rewards good people in the world to come and bad people in this world.”  Why is that justice — that the really good people’s reward is saved up for the next world, and the really bad people, any good they do is paid for in this world?  The reasoning is this way:  the wicked are usually horrible, but occasionally, for a brief moment, they do something good.  Therefore, their reward comes in this world, which is a temporary world (think about it, how long do we live, maybe seventy or eighty years so even if we are rich all our lives, it is less than one hundred years of pleasure).  A righteous person is usually good with some occasional brief moments of messing up.  Therefore, such a person gets punishment in this world (some toothache or frustration in life which is a short life anyway) and all his reward is saved up for the next world which has no end –the reward is forever.

Blind men cannot see a whole vista of a scene.  Human beings cannot see the full picture that blends generations, decades and past and future into one big tapestry of which we only see minute parts.  Therefore, humans have no way of thinking they are seeing the whole picture,and with that lack, have no way of judging fairness and justice.

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