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"I'm a Loser?"

04/10/2019 02:59:19 PM


Rabbi Reuben Israel Abrham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)

In the Story of Creation found in Sefer Bereshit (the Book of Genesis), we read the following: "And G'd said, 'Let the waters be gathered from below the Heavens to one place, and let the dry land appear;' and it was so.  And G'd called the dry land "earth," and the gathering of the waters He called "seas," and G'd saw that it was good."  (Bereshit 1:9)  At the very beginning of Creation, the Earth was covered with water with the emergence of land coming about as stated in the verse just quoted.  In this week's parashah, Parashat Metzora, we read that one of the stages in the purification process of the metzora ( one who suffers from tzara'at) is tevilah (immersion) in a mikveh (a ritual pool of water).  It is when the metzora immerses and then emerges from the mikveh that s/he feels as though s/he has been created anew.  This is also what happens to one who converts to Judaism as well: s/he is "reborn" during  tevilah in the mikveh.

As I stated in last week's "Rabbi's Corner," our Tradition teaches us that the metzora was afflicted with tzara'at because of his/her failure to guard the words s/he spoke to other people about other people.  To overcome being a metzora, a specific process of purification had to be followed.  This being "reborn" caused the person to put his/her past behind and move forward using that past as a learning tool.  Anyone who has been successful can tell you that success does not come overnight.  Becoming a success more-often-than-not involves a great deal of failure.  Possibly the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan, has been touted as having single-handedly redefined what makes an NBA superstar.  And yet this is what he says about his success: "I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career.  I've lost almost 300 games.  26 times I was entrusted with the ball so that I would make the game-winning shot, and I missed.  I have been a failure over and over in my life."  But this, and not the statistics, are what is most important for Michael Jordan: he used his failures as his motivation to "shoot" for success.  In spite of the fact that his shooting average was just under 50% (i.e.- in order to score points he would take 2 shots; one he missed and the other he made), he used the shots he missed as stepping stones toward successfully making the basket on the next shot.  The question is this: was Michael Jordan a failure or a success?

As with the metzora and how s/he proceeds in life after having suffered from tzara'at, it is how we view our failures and what we do with them that makes all the difference in our lives.

Sun, September 15 2019 15 Elul 5779