by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen
Failure can be so painful. A defeat. A measure of our worthlessness. An embarrassment. A time to bury our heads in the sand. A time to weep. Failure can fill us with despair.
But failure can also be an opportunity. It can open doors to new possibilities. It can bring motivation to go deeper.
My father was a scientist and early in his career, he had a massive failure with his prime experiment. His colleagues expected him to move onto something else.
But he didn’t. He spent his life searching for, and eventually finding, answers to the questions created by his experiment’s failure. He turned his pain into beauty.
I made a mistake when planning this year’s Earth Etudes for Elul. I counted wrong. I didn’t have a space left for my own etude.
I despaired. I considered putting two together on one day. And then I decided I needed to take responsibility for what had happened, to step back and not write an etude this year.
Before I knew it, the space left open in my mind and soul suddenly filled with the thought of writing for the 10 Days of Repentance, and the idea of this project germinated and began to grow. It is now blossoming, and over the coming days, I hope you will agree that I succeeded in turning my pain and embarrassment into beauty.
What failures have you experienced recently? How can you turn them upside down and see them as opportunities? How have you done this in the past? What can your experience teach you?
May our eyes be opened to the unexpected possibilities presented by our failures, and in the process bring new beauty into the world.
Rabbi Katy Allen is the founder and rabbi of Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope, which holds services outdoors all year long and has a growing children’s outdoor learning program, Y’ladim BaTeva. She is the founder of the Jewish Climate Action Network-MA, a board certified chaplain, and a former hospital and hospice chaplain. She received her ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion in Yonkers, NY, in 2005. She is the author of A Tree of Life: A Story in Word, Image, and Text and lives in Wayland, MA, with her spouse, Gabi Mezger, who leads the.singing at Ma'yan Tikvah.