Many thanks to Heimish-tech, Jeremie Berrebi, and everyone who came out for a great night of inspiration and harmonization!
Failure is not typically the hottest topic in the startup, tech, entrepreneurial or Jewish worlds. For that matter, in almost anything we read, it rarely rears it’s uncomfortable head. So I want to talk about the concept of failure and how it is truly a Chessed from Hashem.
I remember as a kid, reading in science class about Mount Helens near Seattle, Washington. The destruction caused by the volcanic eruption was epic. All caught on camera 35 years ago. The lava, the ash, the sheer enormity of the catastrophe to life and to the local environment. But something happened, something that always happens happened. Something that, to a person who was sitting in Seattle, might have despaired from happening but it truly always happens. Seeds will sprout given time.
In my shul growing up, there were a number of elderly Holocaust survivors. I remember Mr. Vegh, originally from Czechoslovakia who survived the camps and lost his family, show me his tattoo and I always would count with him how the gemetria equals Chai. I davened next to a Hungarian Yid, who not only survived Auschwitz but also survived Gulag and the crushing Soviet anti-Torah regime. He came to shul one day and put on his tefillin and started crying. I was deeply concerned, a man with frail health in his early 90s. Before I was able to ask him what was wrong, I saw a smile. A smile I never forget. Last night, a great granddaughter was born. His granddaughter, the mother, was naming this beautiful new neshama after a great, great aunt who was killed, HYD. I asked him, why are you crying then- he has dozens of descendants and I have never seen him cry. He told me, with this child- this seed our enemies tried to bury hoping that it would never sprout, would bear the name of his youngest sister and thus completing the naming of all those in his immediate family he lost. The full circle.
When I think of failure, it is easy to think of the bad. But we know, Kol Avid Rachmana l’Tov Avid- All that the Merciful One does is good, as Rebbe Akiva teaches us in Berachos 60B. They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds. The Rosh Yeshiva ztl of Ohr Somyach, Rav Mendel Weinbach wrote a fascinating story on this gemera:
A modern version of this concept is the monument to the boll weevil in Enterprise, Alabama. The insect thus honored was the scourge of the cotton crop which was the main source of income in that southern American state. When the entire crop was destroyed, the initial panic gave way to developing alternatives such as growing peanuts and raising livestock. Even when a solution was eventually found for the boll weevil problem, the Alabamans realized that this insect had actually been a blessing for them by forcing them to diversify their economy and they actually erected a monument in its honor.
Have a great Shabbos and remember to embrace all the Hashem gives us.