Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children. (Dedicated to the Refuah Sheleima of Shalva Adina Bas Sarah Chana & Eliyahu Aharon Ben Yocheved Yetta Ettel).

In her presentation to Harvard University graduates in 2008, J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame, noted the value of failure. She stated:

Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential…I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected. I also discovered that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies…The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know about yourself or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity.

Yosef also warns his brothers not to give up or be depressed as a result of being found to be wrong on the entire “Yosef matter”. In fact, he tells them not to be depressed. Rav Shaul Brach, Kashui Rav, explains that the reason they should not be saddened or depressed is that the setbacks and failures of the past or the fears of the future are useless in preparing and living in the present. Rather, he notes, one needs to live in the “V’Ata” in the here and now, preparing to take the lessons of the past and utilize them in the formulation of decisions of the present. “V’Ata Al Teiatzvu – now do not be emotionally depressed to the point of shutdown,” Yosef cautions the brothers, “for there is better use of the past than getting bogged down in it. There is a plan, a rhyme and a reason for being in the present and we must identify it and live it fully.”

In that regard, Rav Brach tried to explain why noted that Baalei Teshuva get the title “Banim Shovavim – wayward sons ” (See Chagigah 15a). Shovavim is an abbreviation of Simachim B’Tzeisam V’Sasim B’Voamhappy in their departure and joyous in their return. The point is clear – how one departed and the road to return is more valuable as a learning opportunity than spent as an insurmountable emotional cliff that when one goes over it, one cannot return.

Noted psychologist Tal Ben Shahar explains that the earlier we face our difficulties, the better prepared we are to deal with the inevitable obstacles along our path. The brothers of Yosef needed to first face him (The Torah tells us that they were stunned by his face) and were encouraged by his immediate response – urging them to face their error and failure and move on to the full life of the present and future destiny.

Can you think of a challenge that you might consider a failure?

How might you utilize that “failure” of the past to be a part of the “success” of your present and future?

 Let’s  “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting  discussion into our homes and communities.