3 Adar 5766
Stumble Seven Times – But Rise!!
By Rav Hadar Margolin
One of the most precious capabilities you will ever need to acquire, is the ability to deal with defeat. It is an absolute necessity for attaining simcha, happiness. Who does not yearn to always have only success, a calm life of never-ending pleasure, a continual flow from the blessed wellsprings of the sublime and inspirational?
All the problems we inevitably deal with, would seem to us, somehow, unnecessary. We could have – sort of – done better without them.
Nevertheless, reality is sometimes cruel. Our pink dreams end up with other colors. Sometimes blue (actually not so bad!), sometimes grey. Frustratingly, all too often we get black. We experience difficulties, setbacks, troubles of all shapes and forms. How do we deal with them?
What we will be now presenting is a radical change of perspective. A transformation in the way we look at things, one that alters the whole definition of “failure” and “success”.
Imagine if you will, someone who erroneously assumed that he failed miserably. One who thought – mistakenly! – that he truly botched up. Meaning, that he really was successful, although he knew it not. He simply got the facts wrong. Perhaps, as an example, we can talk about a student who got an 80 on the test. He’s upset about such a low mark. Unbeknown to him, it was an unusually hard test, and the mark he got was actually no less than outstanding, an unqualified success. What a shame, that he be walking around with a frustrating feeling of being a failure, when the reality is so different, so opposite!
Having said that, let’s offer a new definition of success – and of failure. So numerous are those who tumble and fall, who walk around depressed by their low self perception, and they got it totally wrong!
Rav Yitzchak Hutner zt”l writes in a famous letter (Igros Pachad Yitzchak 128):
“The wisest of men (Shlomo Hamelech) writes:’A tzaddik will stumble seven times – and rise’. Fools understand that to mean that even though he stumbles 7 times he will nevertheless rise… wise men know well that the essence of rising is only after – and through – stumbling 7 times”.
Let’s analyze this, for it is a deep and startling insight.
There is no success without a prior failure. Such is the nature of creation, this is how Hashem set up the world. Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. Hashem wanted this to be so, because only as such do things have a true value.
There is a purpose to failure, and difficulties do not come about by chance. Actually, they are intended. This principle requires elaboration, and here is not the place for it. But so we have learned.
Looking deeper, contained within this is a new definition of ‘failure’. It is no longer viewed as an unneccesary event which regrettably occurred. Rather, it is an integral part of the natural process of growth and progression, one that we cannot do without. “…wise men know well that the essence of rising is only after – and through – stumbling 7 times.”
Therefore we can further conclude: the ‘failure’ was not a real failure; rather, it is a part and parcel of growth, of progression. This is a new definition of the difficulties of life!!
What was until now viewed as so negative, so problematic, is suddenly seen as an essential element in the chain of success and growth, one which we cannot do without! What a topsy-turvy world!
The moral to be learned from all this is, to never give up. Despair comes from repeated failure. But since it’s really not failure at all, but rather just difficulty which is intentional, with a clear goal to bring out the best from within you – it is therefore not failure at all!
As Rav Hutner writes in that same letter:
“You certainly did slip and fall; you will even continue to do so (this is not ‘wishing you bad’, it is a reality), and you will find that some battles leave you vanquished. But I promise you that at the end you will emerge with the wreath of victory crowning your head”.
This is a conceptual revolution. If “stumbling seven times” would have been just a happenstance, an occurance which may or may not come, it would be difficult to deal with the failure it indicates – for failure it would truly be. But if this is the proccess of success and an essential element of growth, then what we have accomplished is a 180 degree turn in our interpretation of many of life’s events.
A great lesson is contained in what we have learned today, a new look at life’s supposed failures. Don’t let them stop you, or even slow you down. Continue to progress, march forward non-stop, for this is the ultimate path to success.
And “I promise you that at the end you will emerge with the wreath of victory crowning your head”.