The Power of Teshuvah – Day 11
Lose Battles but Win the War
A person is willing to put in effort in order to reach a goal. If that goal seems to keep slipping out of his grasp, he eventually loses his will to try. It is this frustration Rav Hutner addresses in the following powerful letter to a student:
When we tell stories of a gadol (great person), we only record their later years, when they have already become gedolim, and we make it sound as if they were perfect from birth. Rather … realize that the greatness that the gedolim have achieved results from a steady, tenacious war against every base inclination …
Everyone is amazed at the purity of speech of the Chofetz Chaim, but who knows of the … battles, obstacles, slumps, and regressions that the Chofetz Chaim encountered in his war with the yetzer hara? …
Certainly, you have stumbled and will stumble again, and in many battles you will fall. I promise you, though, that after those losing battles, you will emerge victorious … Lose battles but win wars.
What does God want from us when we sin? He wants us to do teshuvah. Teshuvah means returning to the path God set for us when we were born, the path that our souls recognize as homeward bound, the path of goodness, of becoming a better person, a different person, not a perfect person.
Imagine a young child taking his first steps in front of the proud parents. He gets to his feet, takes a few steps, and falls flat on his face. The parents clap with joy. But if you analyze the scenario, shouldn’t the parents be upset? After all, the child fell down!
King Solomon said, “For though a righteous one may fall seven times [in spiritual matters], he will arise, but the wicked ones will stumble through evil.” This verse teaches that in order to become a righteous person, one must fall again and again, and keep getting up. Through the process of falling and rising again, a person becomes a tzaddik.
Enduring change is a process. It often involves taking two steps forward and one step back. We must come to the realization that a step back is to be regarded as a learning experience and not as a sign of failure. It is through this process that we eventually succeed.
Feeling discomfort, discontent, or disappointed is often the catalyst for us to make great strides. These unpleasant emotions propel us to take steps to seek to better our lives.
For us, the key is the belief that we will succeed in our desire to change. God doesn’t expect us to make changes that are as yet beyond our reach. It is out of God’s love for us that He provides this method of getting back on track. Once we have taken steps in the right direction, God accepts our return.
Points to Ponder:
- A step back should not be perceived as failure but as a learning process.
- The words of King Solomon teach that it is the willingness to keep rising and trying after the fall that builds one into a tzaddik.
- All God expects is that we move in the right direction.