My kids used to love the Disney movie, “Meet the Robinsons.” The scene I love in this movie is where young inventor Will Robinson, at dinner with his future family, destroys a ketchup-and-mustard-gun, squirting them all over the table, walls, and people. He gets very embarrassed, and looks completely dejected until the condiment-coated cousins start singing about how well he failed. They explain that their father is a great inventor, and he teaches them that in order to make any progress they have to “Keep Moving Forward,” and every time they fail they know they are a bit closer to their goal.
To put the same thought in the words of Michael Jordan, “It’s not about how many times you fall, it’s about how many times you get back up again.”
There is a story from the Babylonian Talmud (Taanit 25a), that tells of Chanina Ben Dosa and his wife while they are suffering great financial stress. In order to get through this hard time, Chanina, a known miracle-receiver, is asked by his wife to pray for a miracle. A hand comes down holding a golden leg from the table at which he will sit in olam habah (the world to come). That night he dreams of how wife and himself in olam habah, forever condemned to wobble at an unbalanced table. He tells her of the dream and he immediately replaces the golden leg, promising her that he will find other means to earn money rather than jeopardize their share of the world to come.
Like Michael Jordan and Will Robinson, Chanina Ben Dosa is able to get up and try something new, even after an idea that he thought was brilliant, fails. This is our task as well. We often can trick ourselves into believing that the magical solutions we think of are the best way to fix our community’s issues. Sometimes we have brilliant, miraculous successes, and sometimes we can jeopardize our future with the mistakes we make. If we have the fortitude to get up, make amends, and dust ourselves off, our congregations will thrive as we keep moving forward.
Rabbi David N. Young is the rabbi for Congregation B’nai Tzedek of Fountain Valley, CA. He spends all of his non-congregational time with his wife, Cantor Natalie Young, and their children Gabriel, Alexander, and Isabella. They also have a fish that their daughter named “Rabbi Litwak.”