“My son, you have been a lousy manager. And you’ll be worse after I’m dead.”
When is it right to say this?
When the kid is thinking, “I’m king of the world! I’ll never fall.”
And the loving older brother says, “Of course you will fall. I’m holding on to the seat and you’re still wobbling. As soon as I let go, you will fall within a matter of seconds.”
And the loving father tells his older son, “I know he will fall as soon as you let go. Please let him kow that I know that as well.”
And the young son asks his older brother and father, “Why are you being so discouraging!?”
And the father says, “You misunderstand. I want you to succeed. But I don’t want you to confuse the success of me holding on to your success once I let go and you’ve figured it out after having fallen a few times. If I were to give you a pep talk and then you’d fall, you’d think I lied to you.”
What a Shabbos! I spoke at length about this idea that telling the Jews they are failures, while strong, was not an insult, nor was it a form of negative “reverse psychology” reinforcement.
It is the Torah’s way of saying that true and lasting change can only take place when it grows, slowly, from the bottom up. The Torah, Moshe himself, and the 40 years in the desert under God’s social engineering, were all top-down influence, ultimately temporary. We will absorb that light, but then fall.
It is then up to us to climb back up, one step up, two steps down, over and over again, throughout our lives, and throughout history. I privately titled my Chumash Shiur-Drasha, “You are all failures.” The hidden punchline is “Except when you occasionally have minor successes, which make it all worth it.”
Then there was the Shabbos Shuva Drasha. Maybe I’ll save that for another post.
Gmar Chasima Tova.