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This week was the Yahrzeit of my Uncle Jack, Yaccov ben Dovid, 27 Cheshvan. I'm writing this for his merit.
The Torah elaborates on the wells that Yitzchok dug [Breishis 26:19]. First he dug and couldn't find water. He then continued digging until he found some, but then others quarreled with him and took over his wells. He finally found a well with water that he was able to use in peace and he called the area Rechovot .
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin in Growth Through Torah, brings the Chofetz Chaim who explains that the Torah elaborates on the wells to teach us that you should not give up in discouragement when you start something just because you run into difficulties. During Yitzchok's ordeal with the wells he never gave up and despaired, he just kept going till he succeeded.
The Chofetz Chaim pointed out that this is a practical lesson for all areas of our lives, to spiritual and material matters; to Torah studies and to business. Be persistent when things don't work out the way you wanted them to. Especially when beginning to study Torah, don't give up if you find it difficult at first.
Rabbi Pliskin concludes that the reason many people fail to accomplish something is because they give up to soon. If you have the determination to keep trying, eventually you will succeed.
There is a common problem that many of us have that causes us to despair and give up. We may be doing well when all of a sudden we fall down. Consequently, we get depressed and give up. One of the reasons this happens is because we have an unrealistic expectation of what life is supposed to be like.
This is discussed at length by Rabbi Abraham Twersky, in his book "Getting Up When You're Down", p.115-116 . He explains that this problem is when people don't approve of reality. They have unrealistic expectations. For example, they expect to start the car every morning without a problem, have their employers appreciate them, and their children to be promptly obedient when they are told to do something. When things don't happen the way they expect, then they are depressed and dissatisfied and are looking for some therapy or magic pill that will alleviate their situation.
The trouble is, there is none (except in escaping reality which is not a remedy but a temporary copping out which doesn't last. I explained this point in "How to Face Reality"). Rabbi Twersky compares this to a story told about the great escape artist "Harry Houdini" (I remember reading that he was a Jew by the name of Eric Weiss). He had the ability to escape from the most confining locks and cells. Once a prison warden boasted that he had a cell that even the great "Houdini" couldn't unlock. Houdini promptly accepted the challenge.
Once left in the cell, Houdini began working on opening the lock. To his astonishment, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't throw open the bolt. He worked more carefully, but still without success. Finally, in his exhaustion, he leaned against the door, which swung right open. It was never locked. Even the great "Houdini" cannot open a lock that wasn't locked.
Rabbi Twersky points out that we can learn from this story that treatment can be effective only when there is an abnormality that needs to be fixed. If a person just has an unrealistic expectation of the world and expects it to always conform to his wishes, then he is beyond the ken of any psychiatrist or psychologist to treat. Perhaps a rabbi whose authority the person respects can spell reality out to him, so that he can make the necessary, if sometimes inconvenient adjustments to the real world.(Till here is from Rabbi Twersky).
Included also in this problem, is an unrealistic expectation of OURSELVES. We don't realize what can really be expected of us. We expect from ourselves unrealistic achievements, and when we don't live up to them we feel like we are failures. We think that a Tzaddik (righteous person) never falls and if we fall we are not Tzaddikim.
My Rebbi, shlita, in the name of Rabbi Zeidel Epstien, shlita, taught us that this is a very dangerous mistake that could lead people to ultimately giving up. The antidote is to know what the Torah teaches us about what to expect from ourselves. In Rabbi Epstien's sefer on Chumash, "Haoros" on Breishis p. 38, he beautifully illustrates what the Torah really expects from us.
He writes that Shlomo Hamelech tells us in Mishlei Proverbs 24:16:
"Ki Sheva Yipol Tzaddik Vekum, Ureshaim Yikashalu Berah.- A Righteous person falls many (see Ralbag there) times and he gets up , and wicked people stumble with evil (without arising)"
Even a Tzaddik falls many times but the difference between him and a wicked person is that HE DOESN'T GIVE UP-HE GETS UP and continues once again on the right path. A wicked person falls and gives up.
With this point Rabbi Epstien sheds light on a puzzling and enigmatic Midrash. In Breishis Rabbah 3:7 [and 9:2] it says that before the creation of this world, Hashem created other worlds and destroyed them. When He created this world He said "This [world] brings me pleasure, the others did not bring me pleasure [that is why He destroyed them]. "
Now, this is quite hard to understand. We know that by Hashem there doesn't exist the concept of knowing something later that he didn't know before. So, when he created those other worlds, he knew beforehand that He would not like them, so why did He create them?
Rabbi Epstien answers that Hashem acted out the "motions" of creating, apparently regretting, destroying, and creating again many times until He finally succeeded in order to show us the foundation we mentioned before. Don't give up. No matter how many times we fall, we must try again many times until we finally succeed. Hashem is telling us, as it were, Look at Me, even I "failed" many times until I succeeded.
May Hashem help us to internalize this lesson which can be summed up by a saying that I once saw [which , of course, I put up on my wall], "There is no failure except in no longer trying."
If we internalize this we will live a happier life in this world and the next.