The Observant Jew – Try, Try, Again
By Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz
“If at first you don’t succeed,” goes the old adage, “try, try, again.” This motto urges us to never give up and to keep trying to achieve our goals. Even if we didn’t reach them today, tomorrow we just might. But what happens if at first you DO succeed? What if you reach your goals? Do you stop trying?
Well, if it was in business, of course you’d have new goals; bigger and better ones. If you goal was to get four new clients, and you did it, next you’d be upping the number to six or to eight or even more. In that case, though you reached your goal, a new one was easily made.
Maybe you were trying to lose weight. You had a goal weight and you reached it. Would you stop trying? Well, if you did, you might find yourself backsliding to where you were before, or maybe even worse. Though you reached your goal, it’s a constant battle to maintain it.
There is clearly something to be said for succeeding, yet trying again and again.
A dear friend of mine heads a Shul/Kollel in Ramat Beit Shemesh. (It’s called Ahavas Yehonoson – I LOVE that name!) Each year as a fundraiser they raffle off a Megilla before Purim. When the drawing was held, he told me the name of the winner, and then mentioned something else. “This man has a special zechus,” he said.
“When we began the raffle several months ago, he bought tickets. Then, a few weeks ago, we received a nice online donation from him without being asked. Finally, when we sent out an e-mail request to our regular donors to buy at least one ticket, he bought several even though he’d already bought and didn’t need another entry. It was one ticket from that final batch that won.”
I said, “There’s a story in that,” and there is. In fact, I’m telling it to you right now. What I find so inspirational about this is that the fellow had already achieved the goal of helping the organization. No one would accuse him of slacking off. He fully participated in the fundraiser and could pat himself on the back. But he tried again.
When he had the opportunity, he made another donation to support Torah and its scholars. No one asked him to do it; he was motivated on his own to do so, like those people who were moved to donate to the Mishkan and help build a home on earth for HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
But it didn’t stop. When he saw a request to buy tickets, he could have said, “Been there, done that.” He could have thought, “That message is for someone else, someone who didn’t yet step up to the plate.” He could have felt that he’d already done more than his share by buying tickets and giving a separate donation. And yet, he answered the call again – and won the prize.
We say that the Kabolas HaTorah, the acceptance of HaShem’s dominion over us, was much greater at the time of Purim than at Sinai. At Har Sinai, HaShem held the mountain over us like a barrel and essentially threatened us that if we knew what was good for us we’d accept the Torah. We rose to the occasion and said, “Naaseh v’Nishma,” we accept whatever is in the Torah without question because we know HaShem knows what’s best for us.
On Purim, however, Chazal say, “Kimu v’kiblu,” we affirmed what we’d previously accepted. Though there was a threat over our heads from Haman, that’s not when the acceptance happened. It happened when HaShem, in His great love for us, accepted our repentance and saved us. Then the tables turned further and not only were our enemies unable to harm us, but they were the ones on the run! We accepted the Torah of our own volition, though, like the raffle ticket buyer, we could have felt we’d done our part.
When we experienced this miraculous salvation, we were free and could have thought, “Boy, was that a close call!” But we didn’t. Instead, we reached this heady, giggle-inducing reality that HaShem truly loves us! We don’t accept the Torah without question because we know G-d knows better than we do, but because He loves us and we love Him and for that reason alone it’s enough to want to make Him happy.
When we accepted the Torah and sought once again to come closer to HaShem, we earned the prize. We tried and tried again even though we could have stopped at appreciation. We didn’t have to take the next step – yet we did.
That is the source of the simchas Purim, the joy we experience of making good choices and never tiring of our efforts to improve. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. But don’t stop there because if you keep trying, you will keep succeeding and have many more reasons to celebrate.
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