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You Failed? Says Who?


One of the things that often triggers depression is when things don’t go the way you think they should. Not to mention the suffering experienced by perfectionists and those that have OCD.

How do you overcome this?

A good place to start is by examining how you define the purpose of your mission.

The story is told about Yankel who wanted to know what G-d wanted from him. One day, a voice comes out from heaven and says, “See that mountain in front of your house? I want you to push it every morning for half an hour.”

Thrilled, Yankel looked forward to begin fulfilling the personal mission that G-d gave him: to move the mountain in front of his house.

Every morning he woke up eagerly and pushed with all his might for half an hour. After a month of effort without seeing any results, Yankel became very disillusioned. “I see that G-d gave me this task not because he believed that I could move mountains,” he thought to himself, “but in order to get me off his back and keep me busy with an impossible task…”  Totally depressed, he sat down and began to cry. Suddenly he hears that voice again. 

“Why are you crying?” G-d asked.

“Because I failed in the task that you gave me. The mountain doesn’t move!” 

“And who told you that was the objective?”

“If I wasn’t meant to move the mountain, why then did you ask me to push it every day for half an hour?” 

“Look at your muscles! Are they the same now as they were a month ago? That was my goal!”

In last week’s reading, Vaiakhel-Pekudei [1], we read in detail how the Jewish people implemented all the instructions G-d had given them regarding the building of the Mishkan — Tabernacle— in the wilderness. 

The question is: why does the Torah repeat each execution in detail instead of simply saying that “the Israelites did everything that G-d had commanded them through Moses”? That way, we would save several “extra” chapters in the Torah!

The Rebbe, may his merit shield us,  explains that there are, indeed, two tabernacles. There is the theoretical tabernacle as it is in the Divine command, and there is the practical tabernacle built by man. Obviously, the man-made tabernacle is never going to be as perfect as the one in the Divine vision and command. But why, then, did G-d ask us to build an imperfect home for Him instead of creating a perfect version Himself? 

The answer is that G-d prefers the “imperfect” tabernacle created by man precisely because of what it represents: man’s effort to fulfill G-d’s will.

Have you ever wondered why the most expensive photograph in the world is worth $6.5 million [2] while the most expensive paintings are worth hundreds of millions? Shouldn’t it be the other way around, since a photograph captures things more perfectly than any painting can? The answer is that while the photograph can record G-d’s creation perfectly, the painting expresses human ability and creativity. The photo records perfection while the painting is an expression of “perfecting”.

The same is true regarding every challenge that we are faced with. G-d does not want us to do things as He could, but as we can. G-d does not demand perfection from us, but perfecting; that we use the limited tools He gave us to do the best we can. If the result of your efforts is good enough for G-d, why shouldn’t it be good enough for you?

And there’s one more point: having the ability to generate good ideas doesn’t necessarily mean you have the ability to execute them. They are two very different talents. They are two different “stories”. Your lack of ability to execute your brilliant ideas is not a reason to be depressed. Just find someone that has the skill sets that you don’t have and together you can achieve what neither of you would be able to  alone. Of course, going out to find someone who can help you is already in the realm of the practical and can seem like a formidable task… So, look for someone that can help you look or that can help you take that jump…

So, this week’s tools are:


  1. In order to know whether or not you succeeded in life’s various challenges, you must first know what the goal was. And if you don’t know exactly what the goal was, why assume that you failed?

  2. You are not meant to be all-powerful. Find out who can help you achieve your goals.


  1. Exodus 35:1 – 40:38

  2. The “Phantom” by Peter Lik

First published in English on my blog at Times of Israel, March 24, 2020


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