Learn from Our Mistakes

Yael Eckstein  |  June 16, 2021

Moses views Promised Land

But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” — Numbers 20:12

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Chukat, which means “requirement,” from Numbers 19:1–22:1.

One of the greatest gifts that my parents gave me is the belief that I could succeed at whatever I wanted to achieve — even if I made plenty of mistakes in the process. This perspective is what allowed me to step confidently into the position of President and CEO of The Fellowship earlier than I had planned, after my father, Fellowship Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, unexpectedly passed away.

My father was no longer around to mentor me, but I still had the lessons that he and my mother taught me. Because of my parents, I knew that even if I made some mistakes, if I was willing to learn from my mistakes and grow from them, I would ultimately be successful.

In this week’s Torah reading, we learn that even the greatest leaders make mistakes — even Moses. Moses was directed by God to talk to the rock that would produce water for the thirsty Israelites, but instead, he hit the rock. God described Moses’ actions as a failure to “trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites…” As a result, God decreed that Moses would not be the leader to bring the nation of Israel into the Promised Land.

Learn from Our Mistakes

According to Jewish teachings, this episode is an example of how the heroes in the Hebrew Bible were not some other-worldly, perfect human beings that we can never aspire to be like. Rather, they were flesh and blood, human and fallible, just like you and me.

It’s encouraging to realize that even the greatest people of all time made mistakes at one time or another. Moses may have failed at this one task, but he certainly was no failure. He teaches us that we don’t have to be perfect to be great — we just need to learn from our mistakes and keep trying.

In Proverbs 24:16, King Solomon wrote, “though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.” Both the righteous and the wicked fall down, but the wicked stay down while the righteous person gets up again. We all make mistakes, but how we respond to our mistakes is what makes all the difference.

Friends, whether we are trying to reach a lofty goal, or just trying to become a better person, we need to remember this wise advice. We never fail at something until we stop trying. As long as we are willing to learn from our mistakes and keep trying, we will be successful — and with God’s help, we can achieve anything.

Your Turn:

Next time you make a mistake, instead of feeling defeated, ask yourself what you might learn from it. In this way, even your mistakes can become important steps toward achieving your goals.