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How to Truly Succeed

The Nation of Israel is likened to a grape vine. The sages explain: “What is done when the owner of the vine wants to enhance it? He uproots it from its place and plants it in another place. And it becomes enhanced. Accordingly, when God wanted to make the Nation of Israel known in the world, what did He do? He uprooted them from Egypt and brought them to the desert and they began to succeed there.”[1] Every person has his ‘destiny of success’. If he does not succeed, it is a sign that he has to be uprooted from his first place and planted in a different place.

The first place is not necessarily problematic or the source of the failure. The first planting is not a mistake. The sapling often begins its life in the plant nursery, in a protective hothouse that fosters the first period of growth and success. However, the sapling should not remain in the nursery as a tiny tree. It is meant to grow deep roots, spread its branches and bear delicious fruit. It has to leave the nursery and venture out into real life, where it will grow and fulfill its mission. Every person grows in a particular environment and with particular people. We all nurture our talents and discover possible avenues of success. To realize our potential, however, we have to be uprooted from the place in which we were planted and venture forth to the place of our mission.

Uprooting for the sake of re-planting can take on many forms. Sometimes it is actual uprooting from one place and re-planting in another. Sometimes it is only a change of internal consciousness. Sometimes it is a change of intellectual perspective, and sometimes it is an emotional crisis. Sometimes a person is aroused by his aspirations for greater success and uproots himself on his own. Sometimes, the uprooting is painfully forced upon him. The common denominator of all these scenarios is that they have a dimension of ‘nothingness’ – the nullification and loss of the previous state of being and a temporary loss of one’s actual hold on reality. It is only from that state that one can achieve a new, much more successful state of being.

The order of planting-uprooting-planting appears in many processes, both personal and public. For example, a young man studying in yeshiva may cultivate an image of a serious Torah-learner with refined character traits. But to be cleansed of the flaws of falsehood in this image, he will have to face painful falls. These falls often revolve around his level of personal holiness, which show him the depth of his personality and motivate him to achieve true, inner success, appropriate to his soul root. Even after he has achieved this new state of soul-success, he will eventually have to be uprooted from his environment and lose this level, so that he can ascend to a higher level of success as he goes out to fulfill his mission in the world.

Another example: The first consciousness of the Nation of Israel is that God has chosen us and planted a Jewish soul – a part of God above – in each Jew. Every Jew is God’s child. But in order to truly succeed at his role in the world, he has to accept the yoke of God’s commandments. He can no  longer see himself as a pampered child, but must be willing to serve God as a soldier in His army (usually this process takes place through the state of ‘nothingness’ experienced by most adolescents). The State of Israel was also established on the basis of the national consciousness of being the chosen nation. But to truly succeed, it has to mature – with the crisis inherent to this process – and transform into a Jewish state founded on the Torah and mitzvot.

[1] Midrash Rabbah Shemot 44:1.


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