24 Av 5781 / Monday, August 02, 2021 | Torah Reading: Re'eh
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Pitfall of Progress    

Pitfall of Progress

Every time I see a little success in what I am doing, I try to take the reins from His Hands. I try to further the success He has given me with designs of my own…


The blessing of the Lord will bring riches, and toil will add nothing to it. Proverbs 10:22
Every day it's a new scheme. Maybe if I invest in this stock, my portfolio will go up. Perhaps if I expand my business this way, I will make more money. If I start that new venture today -- everything will turn out better.
Even when we make the right decisions and things turn out for the best, there is someone who is enjoying greater success using the same strategy. Good decisions can look like bad ones for the simple reason that someone did it better.
It makes every choice we make that much harder to execute.
I keep forgetting the golden rule in business:
Have Emuna in Hashem and He will make sure everything will work out just fine.
Every time I see a little success in what I am doing, I try to take the reins from His Hands. I try to further the success He has given me with designs of my own. I do this on the assumption that it was me who caused the initial success so it will be up to me to further it.
Spiritually, this can be called the pitfall of progress. It’s a cycle that we all need to be aware of:
First, we begin a venture by petitioning Hashem to help us. We can ask Him in the form of more prayers, talking to G-d with greater intensity, improving our character traits, or more daily learning.
Second, we begin to see real success in what we are doing as Hashem blesses us with greater profits, more responsibility, or moving a step closer to the goal we are striving for.
Third, for whatever reason, we get so involved with this new situation, we slowly move away from the spiritual actions we originally took that merit Hashem bringing us to this point. It is never because we no longer need Hashem now that we have what we want. We are not bad people and the Evil Inclination is not that foolish. It is always something more "Kosher" or "legit."
It's always an excuse like, "I am so busy now I don't have time to learn this long." "The stress of everything makes focusing on prayers much harder."  "I just don't feel the need to talk to G-d, let me focus on my prayers and leave it at that."
We are not evil for doing this. In fact, it is perfectly natural. Only the angels go straight up to Heaven in a celestial elevator. We have to take the stairs.
All of our effort is based on taking two steps forward, and one step back. Our excuses are the one step back. After we gradually reduce our focus on Hashem and His role in our newfound successes, we inevitably lose a chunk of whatever we gained.
We don't lose it all, though. We have a good quarter, but our profits aren't as good as the last one. Our stocks begin to slip a little, but not completely. Never mind that we bought in at $10, it went up to $25, and now it's trading at $17 – all we see is the theoretical loss. His warnings are seldom enough to erase all of the progress we have made, but it's enough to wake us up.
Realizing that the True Source of our setback is the same Source for our initial success, we perform a personal audit.
We make teshuva.
We reach out once more. We intensify our efforts, even beyond what we were doing in the first place. We begin learning more than we ever did. We start talking to Hashem with a greater intensity. Our character development improves. We make these personal enhancements while continuing to manage the added responsibility of our newfound success. We have, to the fullest extent, improved ourselves – operating at a spiritual and personal capacity beyond anything we have ever reached. Our tribulation instantly converts from a spiritual setback to a catalyst for something better.
And, when we add the element of basic gratitude to Hashem to our personal audit and we remember to thank Hashem for those blessings that we took for granted, the teshuva process is complete.
Hashem smiles from Above. He grants us another level of success. Then, even if we fall back – we’ll be primed for a greater leap.
* * *
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.

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