for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes. Proverbs 24:16
If someone asked us what the difference is between the righteous and the wicked, we would probably answer that the righteous person doesn't sin, while the wicked person does. However, a verse in Proverbs provides us with a different definition. We read: "for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes."
It's not that the righteous don't stumble in sin; it's that they get up after they fall. The wicked fall just as the righteous person does, only the wicked give up and don't ever get up again.
What a radical way to see righteousness! What a wonderful way to define success! It's not about how many times we fail. It's about how much we persevere. In fact, the Jewish sages explain the verse in the following way: Because a person falls but gets up again, they become righteous. If not for the fall, they would never ascend to great heights.
Sir James Dyson was the first to invent a vacuum cleaner without a bag. The invention took 15 years and 5,126 failed attempts to finally arrive at the groundbreaking invention. Dyson has since become a vocal advocate for embracing failure, explaining that it was the reason for his success. It's through our failures that we learn to succeed.
When we were children, we didn't have a fear of messing up. In fact, that's how we learned to walk, to eat independently, to talk, and to learn. We fell down, got food on the floor, uttered gibberish, and messed up our colors before perfecting all those activities. Yet, it was only by learning from our mistakes that we were able to perfect our skills. As children, we played freely, tried new things, and let our creativity run wild. We were inventors, innovators, and discoverers. Yet, somewhere along the way we became afraid of making mistakes, and that's when our development slowed down.
It has been said that the master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried. As the verse in Proverbs teaches us, falling down, but getting up again, is that path to greatness.
Today, I want to encourage us all to keep getting back up again. For some of us it may be a spiritual aspiration that we are striving for: we'd like to change a bad habit, kick an addiction, or change our attitude. Don't give up, no matter how many times you fail. For others, it's simply the will to go on in spite of life's setback that challenges us today. For those in this situation, I want to encourage you also to keep on pressing forward.
Remember, it's through the fall that we will rise. Don't give up!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President