Avoiding Failure

By Mendy Gollub, Longbeach, CA
Essays 2017

MyLife Essay Contest 2017

Nobody likes failure. It’s heartbreaking to really want something and put in effort and still not reach your goal. However, if you look in Chassidus, it lays out there are formula for success. In Chassidus we find instruction for how to properly invest ourself in something in a way that we will never taste failure. In order to understand how to properly go about achieving our goals, we first need to understand how the Keilim, vessels, work.

The Keilim are our bridges to the things outside of us. They take our energy and channel it towards our desires. Any pursuit, be it intellectual or emotional, is only reached through the Keilim. In chapter 5 of Tanya, it explains how through the Keilim we can connect to    G-d in such a way that our entire life will be consumed with G-dliness. On our own, we would not be able to connect to something so deeply. It is only through the Keilim that something becomes so real to us. So too in general, it is only through the Keilim that we immerse ourselves in things like a game of chess or completely swept away by a peice of music. Anytime we are “leaving ourselves,” so to speak, and entering something else, the Keilim are being employed. Vague as the language is, this happens every day. Keilim are needed to take part of a conversation, to listen to a lecture, to build a relationship, etc.

A brief explanation on how the Keilim work might be appropriate. In Tanya it explains how we have ten powers of the soul. The first three are our intellectual faculties. With these we are given the ability to completely understand everything about something and truly internalize it to the point that the knowledge changes our life. Now, after acquiring such a deep understanding of something, it is only natural that some emotion will be invested. After understanding everything about someone, automatically an opinion will be formed if they are a good person or not. This is the rest of the Keilim. Through these Keilim, our relationships are augmented with an emotional side, instead of just being purely intellectual. In short, the first three Keilim allow us to understand and the rest allow us to feel. To get back to our essay, anytime we invest effort into something, no matter what it is, it is through the Keilim. Now, in order to understand why we fail at some things we invest ourselves into, we need to see what the Rebbe Rashab explains about Keilim.

In Hagahos D”h Pasach Eliyahu, 5658, the Rebbe Rashab introduces a question. Before any creations, there was just Atzmus, the deepest, most personal level of G-dliness. According to this level of G-dliness, (and according to the truth,) nothing else exists besides for Hashem Himself. So how could a world such as ours, a creation that feels its own independence and recognizes no creator, ever have come from a source such as Atzmus? To this the Rebbe Rashab gives the answer of Keilim. Atzmus conceals its presence within the Keilim, thus leaving a void that can be filled by something else. Basically, once Atzmus conceals itself, the concept of something existing outside of Atzmus is introduced. To bring the point out further, before the Keilim, the world would not have any importance or independence. Because it would be created from material that screams the oneness of Hashem, the world itself would feel as though it is part of Atzmus. However, once the oneness of Hashem is concealed, suddenly the creations feel as though they are separate, their own existence. This concealment is through the Keilim. This gives us some insight into our own presence and our own Keilim. When we are focused on ourselves, nothing else exists. But in this state, we will never be able to connect to things properly. We first need the concealment of the Keilim. We need to erase the feeling that nothing else exists besides for ourselves, and then we can hope for success when we invest ourselves into something. We cannot appreciate a peice of music or understand a lecture if we are only seeing ourselves in the situation. Our goals can only be reached when we conceal ourselves, push aside our own presence, and focus only on what’s in front of us.

This idea is best brought out with an example. In a game of chess, there are two ways to approach the game. Either, the healthy way, we only see the game. There are no ulterior motives in playing, just the game itself with all of its inherent intricacies. Or, we can approach it the wrong way, in which we are focusing on ourselves. In the game we see only an opportunity to prove to ourselves and the world that we are smart. Or in another example, in a conversation we only see a test if we are socially adept. Everything we invest ourselves into is only to prove that the goal is within our reach. Everything becomes an evaluation. The goals we do attain boost our confidence, while the ones we cannot will lower our expectations of what we think we can achieve. And this, Chassidus teaches us, is the wrong way to go about our life. Chassidus teaches us that the proper way to invest ourselves through the concealment of Keilim. In order to connect ourselves to something, to properly understand something, we cannot be thinking about ourselves.

To drive this point home, in order to invest ourselves fully, we need to conceal ourselves and acknowledge the independent existence of the things around us. We need to quell the constant impulse to prove ourselves and use situations to dispel our insecurities. And indeed, these very worries and doubts will disappear on their own because the more we approach life like this, the more successful we will be, until our insecurities become a dream of the past. But it all starts, as Chassidus explains, with the first step of trusting ourselves, of pushing away our self doubts that first time. Chassidus explains that everything we’ve ever wanted, the type of life we’ve always yearned for, is in our hands. But success will never come if we need to be proven to that we are successful. Chassidus teaches us that success comes from within. Success comes from us bravely entering a situation, not listening to our fears, and giving ourselves entirely over to the task at hand. Chassidus teaches us that success is not something that we must strain to achieve, rather something we allow ourselves to experience.

[This essay would not be complete if I did not go back and address the concealment of Atzmus one more time. In order to allow room for our world to exist, Atzmus had to conceal itself as explained above. This means that Hashem pushed aside His own glory and presence to make room for us. He pushed aside everything else and is focused entirely on us. And He is doing this constantly. Hashem constantly keeps Himself concealed so as not to nullify our world until the day that we refine ourselves enough that we can handle the revelation. This idea of Hashem focusing on us constantly should give us the strength to throw ourselves into Torah and mitzvot without letting out inner turmoils affect our focus.]

Practical application: 

Chassidus shows us the road to success but the first step must be taken ourselves. And powerful though the themes discussed here might be, it can be hard to find practical ways to implement them into our lives. So based on my own experiences, here are ways to apply these ideas into our lives.

1) Start by recognizing when you are entering situations with only yourself in mind. Realize when you are using situations as a way to disprove your own self doubts.

2) Once you recognize what you are doing wrong, try separating yourself from the situation. Try seeing the situation for what it really is without letting your insecurities affect what you see.

3) Once you really see the situation, automatically you will be able to navigate it properly. This in turn will boost your overall confidence until your self doubts fade away.

Other places we see this theme:

1) In Basi Legani, 5737, it explains the concept of concealment for the revelation. In order for Atzmus to reveal the deepest levels of itself, it first must come through a concealment. So too by us, just the opposite. In order for us to recognize the deepest levels of something, we need to conceal ourselves.

2) In the second and third mamaarim or 5666, it explains how the only way to elevate yourself is with bittul, nullifying yourself. By pushing away everything you knew previously and reopening your eyes, you will receive a higher level of revelation than before. Likewise by us, in order to grasp something and truly appreciate it, we must push our own consciousness down and focus only on what is in front of us.

And many, many more places . . .