In preparing for a move, I was going through an old stack of papers and found inside a pamphlet that I was apparently given during one of my trips to Israel, entitled “How to get deeper into Torah without going off the deep end.” I don’t remember reading this pamphlet previously (because I probably received it quite a number of years ago), but decided to skim through it again now, just to see what kind of advice it offered to the newly religious.
The advice enclosed was sound, things like “Don’t abandon your old identity,” “Go slow” (5 times!), and “Ask questions.” But the one that really struck me was “Honor all your failures.”
“Honor all your failures.” I thought that was quite interesting and not something that I’ve heard so often. It makes sense; I’ve heard the expression more than once that you learn from your mistakes. And honestly, I know that whenever I mess something up, while I do have a tendency to take it hard (obviously, I still have this lesson to learn), I usually try very hard not to repeat such a mistake and as such, grow from it.
The pamphlet goes on to say that getting things right “prevents deep understanding” while “your failures bring depth and grace to your knowledge.” Again, I definitely see the wisdom in such an approach, the more you make mistakes and realize them, the more you recognize and refine the correct way of doing things.
I think this is a really important lesson for many baalei teshuvah, that you don’t have to be perfect, ever. That there is as much growth, if not more, to be made through mistakes and failures, than there is from doing things right. A writer learns that revisions make his writing stronger and clearer. An artist erases many times before producing a masterpiece. And a person should realize that through his mistakes, he internalizes what he is striving for.
Honor your failures, for they are that which you learn from.