Life is an endless journey. And it is really all about the journey. There’s so much life and value in the process, so much growth and awareness in the journey, as difficult as it may sometimes be.
It’s all about improving, building, and accomplishing. It doesn’t always seem so wonderful. But if it did, there would be no growth. We would miss the opportunity to make mistakes and grow from them.The Kabbalah teaches that G-d put us in this world (which is one great obstacle course) but also joins us in the challenge. G-d is like a great coach who’s training you for the Olympics. He sets up a training ground filled with obstacles. That is His gift to you. He is really creating opportunities for you to jump higher. He also knows that the higher you need to jump, the harder you could fall. But that’s the price you pay to enter the Olympics. You are bound to make mistakes and fail sometimes. But when you do, don’t despair. It’s all part of the process. Just try again, and keep moving forward. Don’t spend your valuable time beating yourself up over the past, constantly bemoaning all the mistakes you made. Torah reminds us that great people make great mistakes.
It’s not that we want to fall or try to fall. But sometimes we do make mistakes. But no matter how low we fall we can always find golden opportunities for growth.
Of course, we must recognize that we made a mistake, and we should regret it and resolve never to do it again. But don’t get stuck — move on. There is always an illuminating spark to be discovered at every stop in our journey.
When you read the Torah you come across a whole collection of people who are not perfect, who are grappling with personal problems and difficult situations. Abraham had to deal with the problems and the pitfalls of being too giving. Isaac, on the other hand struggled with being too restrained and submissive. Jacob had to face the dangers of being too wholesome. And young Joseph’s youthful spontaneity caused him lots of aggravation and challenge. Even the great prophet Moses lost his temper and hit the rock. Nobody is perfect. And yet these people are held up as models for us to emulate. Why?
Because they all struggled with their imperfections and the problems in the world. And they did an incredible job of living a dynamic life of growth. They are masters of growth.
The Talmud points out that “the Torah wasn’t given to angels,” and King Solomon teaches that “there is no righteous man on earth who doesn’t err.”
Nowhere does it say that anybody is expecting you to be perfect. All that’s expected of you is that you strive to be better — that you strive in the direction of perfection. The Torah readily acknowledges that the human being has a lot of different energies and a lot of conflicting energies.
Indeed, the Talmud states that G-d created in the world not only a drive for good, but also a drive for evil as well as the antidote for it, the Torah. Without these conflicting drives, a human being would have no freedom of choice —nothing to choose between, nothing to overcome in the quest to get better, no way to participate in the process of self-creation.
With all the combustion that happens as a result of those conflicting energies, you can explode. Or, if you know how to direct them, if you use the Torah to direct them, those energies can propel you forward. In fact, the word Torah comes from the Hebrew word yorah which means “to teach” but also means “to shoot.” Torah teaches us how to shoot forward in our lives. That’s what we are here on earth to be doing — moving forward, growing, growing toward greater perfection.
The Zohar, the Magnus corpus of the Kabbalah, teaches us that within us is a child and also an old foolish king. What does this mean?
Well, consider the difference between the child and the old foolish king. In Hebrew, the word for child comes from the word meaning “to shake up.” And that is very appropriate, because the child is always agitating, moving, growing. A child loves adventure.
You might live five minutes away from the school and your kid comes home an hour-and-a-half after school has let out.
“Where were you?”
“I was just walking home.”
“But we live five minutes away.”
“I don’t know … I was just walking home.”
“Well how long can it take you to get here? What did you do?”
“Ahh … ahhh … you know that backyard that says `BEWARE OF VICIOUS DOG’? We thought it would really interesting if we climbed over the fence and we’d kind of move across the yard …. `Hi poochie, hi poochie … hi poochie …’ and then you know that antenna next door, well, we climbed up that antenna and jumped over to the other roof …”
A child loves adventure, his excitement isn’t just getting there, his excitement is in the getting to there.
Contrast this with the old foolish king. He thinks that he is already there. Where is there to go if you are already king? He’d rather sit on his throne than take a walk into the unknown. The unknown to him is not an adventure but a risk — he could fall off his high horse, he could lose his crown, you never know.
But a child loves adventure, she loves to grow, she loves challenge. A child thinks why eat spaghetti with a fork if I can do it with a straw? Now that would be interesting — to just suck each one of them up. A child loves challenge.
Life is a challenge, and if you are ready to acknowledge that and see it as the challenge of any good game — where the challenge itself is what makes it fun — then life for you will not be a burden, but an adventure.
There is a story about a guy who set out to climb Mt. Everest and just before he got to the top he died. And people said “How tragic, he almost made it … How tragic he was so close to reaching his goal.” In the Kabbalistic view of life, it was not tragic at all. Because in the Kabbalistic view of life, the climb is just as good whether or not you make it to the top. In fact, the reality of life is such that you never do get to the top. The climb is the goal. The top of the mountain is only the direction, but it is not the destination.
The Torah teaches that no one will leave this world with half of his desires fulfilled. Even Moses never reached the Promised Land, he died on the way. But the truth is we all die on the way. Is that tragic? Not if you live your life knowing that the way is the goal and that there is a precious lesson to be learnt with every step of the way —- so make sure that you enjoy the journey.