Minute #635: Down But Not Out

Problems are annoying. They get in the way of accomplishing what one would like to achieve. Big problems are not only bothersome; they may be depressing. When one is faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, one is wont to give in and give up hope. Our Sages teach that despair is a tool of the evil inclination.

The Chofetz Chaim used to tell a parable about a poor woman who sold apples on a street corner in order to earn money to feed her children. One day, as she displayed her wares in a basket, a man started grabbing apples from her basket without paying. The woman began to cry. A passerby exclaimed, “Why do you stand there crying? He will take all you have! Grab what you can and run away from him — at least you’ll salvage some of your apples.”

Sometimes a person is saying Shemoneh Esrei and thinking all kinds of distracting thoughts. When the person realizes most of his prayer was said without proper intent, he feels he should just rush to the end. He reasons: “I didn’t say most of it correctly; I might as well give up and look towards the next time where maybe I’ll do better.” That’s giving in to the evil inclination, i.e., the man stealing the apples. It’s better to salvage what you can by concentrating on the rest of the Shemoneh Esrei and not despair.

Spiritual life is a series of ups and downs. One must always remember that down is not out. Never give up! Fight your way back up and return for the next challenge.

One More Second: Another Thought for the Day

Chazal say, regarding Adam: “And now, lest he throw his hand.” Rabbi Abba bar Kahana said this teaches that Hashem offered Adam a path to teshuvah — repentance. “And NOW” can only be explained as repentance, as it says elsewhere: “And NOW what does Hashem ask of you” (Beresheet Rabbah, 21:6). “NOW” means teshuvah because as soon as one is aroused to repent, one must take immediate action. If one delays, the excitement immediately begins to cool and ultimately teshuvah will not come to fruition.