Try, Try Again

“Yitzchak’s servants dug in the valley, and found there a well of fresh water” (Beresheet 26:19).

The events surrounding the sale of the birthright of the seed of Avraham and the dramatic intrigue of the “theft” of the blessings of Yitzchak are interrupted by seemingly mundane, unimportant details of disputes between the servants of Yitzchak and the subjects of Avimelech over the digging of wells. The commentators, realizing that every detail included by Hashem in His Holy Torah is of utmost importance for eternity, explain that the wells relate to future events in the history of our people, especially the Temple periods. The strange names of the wells reveal insights as to the causes of the destruction of the Batei Mikdash, our holy Temples.

There is also a timeless, ethical lesson for all. One should always fight adversity and persist to complete a worthwhile task. If Yitzchak Avinu dug a well but failed to find water, he dug elsewhere until he succeeded. If enemies disputed his rights to the water, he went to another site and dug there. Eventually, he found water that no one disputed and he called the well “Rechovot” — wide space. This is the way a person should approach adversity, whether in material projects or spiritual pursuits. Should one have difficulty in one’s initial efforts to learn Torah, one should not despair — because, at the end of the day, success is imminent. (Chofetz Chaim)

A story is told about Harav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, zy”a, who was on a mission to raise funds to pay the ransom for some Jews who had been abducted. After traveling to many towns and villages, he was still unsuccessful in collecting the required funds. He began to doubt his decision to take on this effort. “Perhaps I was wrong to accept this responsibility. I have not raised the money and I have lost weeks of time that I could have spent learning in the bet midrash.”

One day Rav Levi Yitzchak was witness to the arrest of a Jewish thief by the authorities. After giving him a good beating, the authorities locked him up in the local jail.

“You should learn a lesson from this and never attempt robbery again,” advised Rav Levi Yitzchak.

“No way!” replied the thief. “If I failed today, that doesn’t mean I won’t succeed the next time!”

“If a criminal does not give up in his wicked pursuits, how much more so must I persist in order to achieve Torah goals? If I don’t succeed today — that doesn’t mean I will not win tomorrow,” said the great Sage to himself.

A young man, newly committed to study of Torah on a daily basis, frequented a synagogue that Harav Noach Weinberg, zt”l, the Rosh Yeshivah of Aish HaTorah in Yerushalayim, came to visit. During seudah shelisheet (the third Shabbat meal) the young man strategically sat next to the Rav. “I have been trying to learn Gemara with one of the young Rabbis in our kollel,” he related to him. “Yet every time I prepare, it seems like I just don’t get it right. I think it just might not be for me.”

“Don’t give up,” Reb Noach advised. “Just keep on trying and one day you will begin to understand.”

The Rosh Yeshivah’s words of encouragement gave the man the impetus to keep on trying. Now, over 30 years later, he can proudly say that learning and teaching Torah is his greatest joy in life — a pursuit that was successful due to persistence.

If at first you don’t succeed — try, try again!

Shabbat shalom.