In a sense, Elul and Tishrei are all about failure. This is the season of repentance. It is the time of self-improvement. We learn from the Gemara that if the Holy Temple in Jerusalem is not rebuilt within our generation, we are as guilty as the ones who caused its destruction.
Another year, another Rosh Hashanah in the exile of a splintered people, a shadow of what we once were, and what we have yet to become.
All the more reason to jump up and dance!
We learn many things from failure. In fact, we learn more from failure than we do from success. All success teaches us is to what we were already doing. Success tempts us with the complacency that it is we who make things happen, and not Hashem.
Failure makes us think. Failure forces us closer to He Who determines our fate for the coming year.
Failure in something means we are on a mission. It means that there is a beginning point, an end point, and we are struggling somewhere in the middle. It doesn’t mean we will never make it. All it means is that the current methods we are using to progress need some improvement. Every day we open our eyes and thank G-d for waking us up is another chance He is giving us to succeed.
Failure is also a indication of Divine Favor. We learn in Proverbs that the righteous fall down seven times. Why do they fail seven times in their pursuits?
Because G-d loves them. He has faith in them. He believes in them so much that He didn’t plop them down in this world with a simple mission and a simple reward. He gave them such a difficult task to accomplish in this world that they have to fail seven times before getting it right. We learn that according to the resistance we face in a specific goal is the importance of it in this world and the Next.
A failure is a member of Hashem’s elite forces.
The challenge is not necessarily to achieve victory; it is to get up each time you get knocked down by your own mistakes.
That is teshuvah.It is not the results that are the primary product of serving Hashem, it is the effort.
If we fail in something, it means part of our mission requires self-improvement. What we are doing requires us to exert ourselves beyond what we are comfortable with In the process we have to get closer to Hashem. We have to increase our emunah in knowing for sure that this particular failure was sent to us by Hashem for our own benefit. It is a tool that He is putting directly in our arsenal of holiness to make a better attempt at success the next time around.
If approached the right way, failure is a blessing.
It is the opportunity to identify and pinpoint exactly what is wrong with us. It is a chance to isolate the worst darkness within our being. We can find what we are most disappointed about our day to day conduct and change it.
Failure is a chance to eliminate a part of the darkest forces in this world by transforming a piece of our being into light.
It is a miracle taking place within our own spirit.
What would you do if you are the boss of a company and during the yearly evaluations you find a specific employee who has many serious problems with his performance? What do you do if you look at his or her reviews over the years and see that there has been little to no improvement in these areas even though warnings have been given? What do you do if the only feedback you received was this poor guy getting on his knees begging to keep his job?
You get rid of him. Business is business and the numbers tell the story.
Hashem doesn’t do that. He looks at our yearly performance reviews at this time of year and sees the same thing. He calls us to task during Elul and Tishrei and makes His decision. By all accounting, we should be fired. We don’t have the merit to live another day, yet alone the whole year. For all of our begging and groveling over Yom Kippur, our collective “past performance” implies that many of us will be back to our old ways by Sukkot.
Instead of doing “His job,” He throws the corporate handbook in the celestial wastebasket and in acts out of True Compassion
He gives us another chance.
That’s how important teshuvah is. That’s how crucial failure is to our lives. Our mission depends on that crucial moment when we are lying on our back, devastated with despair, deciding whether or not to try again or just coast for the rest of our lives.
The statement King Solomon made in Proverbs continues,
The wicked fall down but once.
Rosh Hashana marks the beginning of our pledge to G-d that we will persevere.
Yom Kippur is KiPurim – just like Purim. Judgment Day is a time of great joy. It is the time we stand before our Father and boldly distinguish ourselves between failures and quitters.
There are only two ways our mission in life terminates before completion. We either quit or we die.
G-d Willing, as long as we resolve not to do the former, Hashem won’t resolve to do the latter.
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Dovber Halevi is the author of the financial book, How to Survive the Coming Decade of Anxiety. He writes for Breslev Israel and The Middle East Magazine. He lives with his wife and two children in Eretz Yisrael.