A BAD IDEA

0 Posted by - January 29, 2014 - Parsha, Shemot

A BAD IDEA

Parashat Terumah

P

eople ask me how I manage to come up with an amazing article every week. Here is my secret. I don’t. I come up with an article that is not so great. And then I change it. I tweak it ’til it’s better. And then change it again. Each time looking for something that didn’t seem right the first time. I never come up with a good idea the first time around.

Ask the honest shadchan. He’ll tell you. “What percentage of your attempts make it to the chuppah?” The most successful shadchanim I know told me the secret recipe. “I fail 50 times so that the 51st might send me an invitation!” They are ready to fail before they start. They don’t fear the  “No, we’re not interested.”

This is the secret recipe of the successful. Fail 9 times, so that you will succeed on the 10th. The comedian needs to make 9 jokes so that the 10th might be funny. Then, he doesn’t tell you those bad jokes, he just tells you the funny ones. In writing, or any other area where you need to come up with a  good idea for something, if you need creativity, remember that your #1 enemy is fear of failure. As long as your child is afraid of falling, he will never learn how to ride a bike. One boy I coached was afraid to date, because he might get a no, or even worse, get married and then divorced. A young married fellow was afraid to open up emotionally, out of fear of rejection. Napoleon Bonaparte was quoted, ‘He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat.

I specialize in coaching for effective learning. More than one person says he can’t read Talmud on his own, and that he needs a tutor/superior study partner to explain the entire section of Talmud being studied. Can you read a piece of Talmud on your own? “No”.  Okay. Let’s see what happens when you try. The student reads the Mishna out loud. After the first line, he says, “I don’t know what its talking about.” What did you understand? “Nothing”. Did you have  5 % comprehension of the text?  “No”. Is it talking about xyz?  “No.” How do you know?  “Because its talking about abc”. So you do understand 5%? “Yes…” After a few more questions, we realize that he knows closer to 60 percent of the info! And the reason why he gives up trying to read on his own is that he is afraid to get a 60. I have found this to be a very common problem.

The ones who are the “geniuses” don’t believe that you have to understand the info with a 100 percent comprehension the first time around. Somehow, they never assumed that one has to learn in such a way. This is many times the difference between those who make it in the study hall and those who don’t.  A successful yeshiva student learns in percentages of comprehension. The non successful yeshiva student wants to get 100 percent comprehension the first time around. In Talmud study, sometimes you need to read ahead, to get a picture of things, even if you don’t understand 100 percent of what you are reading. You need to get however much of a picture you can, the best percentage you can for a rough draft, and then come back for a second and then a third round. The Talmud tells us this. You need to learn the text at least four times before you can say, “I got it”. This is why the Torah scholar is called תלמיד חכם . He is always in the studying stage. He always sees himself at 50 percent comprehension.  אין דברי תורה מתקיימים אלא במי שנכשל בהם תחילה. (Gittin 43a) He first reads the Gemarrah knowing that his initial understanding is not absolute.

The ארון הקודש, the Holy Ark, is symbolic of the Torah scholar. Just as the Ark was gold on inside and on the outside, so, too, a Torah Scholar needs to be genuine on the inside, as he is on the surface.(Yoma 72b) There are other allegories here between the Ark and the Torah scholar. The Ark had unique measurements. 2 and a half, by 1 and a half and 1 and a half. It was different from the other vessels in the Mishkan, in that all its measurements included halves. To teach you that a student needs to look at himself as if he is still at a partial percentage and has not reached תכלית החכמה , 100 percent comprehension.(see Kli Yakar)

There is always room for another round, to get a higher percentage of comprehension than what you are up to now. This is a twofold lesson. If a student says “I got it”, and goes on thinking that he has reached maximum comprehension, this will stop him from advancing in his level of understanding and coming up with a new, creative thought. You need to be ready to come back to the text, to learn it for another round. “I got the idea, but I need to think it over”, is the frame of mind of those who come up with good questions, good answers, and new concepts. Take the telephone, for example. If you think that technology has reached its climax with the phones, you are in good company. With every new burst of technology, people think this way, that there is no more room for innovation. Those inventors who come up with new ideas first believe that there is always more to go. Just as there have been innovative ways of thinking since the time the Talmud was recorded, there continue to be new ideas to come up with. This is the first side of the coin with learning in percentage, seeing yourself only halfway there.

The other side is being ready to fail, to learn in percentages. The all or nothing student, who says to himself, If there are some words that I don’t understand, if there is something not clear, then I didn’t understand anything, is prevented from even trying. Those who are successful in the study hall are not necessarily smarter, they just have a different approach. They are willing to fail the first time around, to reach just a 20 percent comprehension, and the second time around are ready to fail again, but with 60 percent comprehension. By the fourth time, they are at 90 percent comprehension. They never shut off the engine during the first time around. The first round is somewhat of a rough draft, quickly going through today’s material, looking for what the text is generally talking about. In round two, we look for more detail, and the third round is putting it all together. It’s not about speeding through the text,  hoping to be the first or the fastest to finish. It’s about getting the information in the most effective way. Never getting stuck. Never saying “I don’t know what it’s talking about”. Rather, saying, “I don’t know yet!”

R Tzvi Meir Silberberg, shlita, said it the best. The Torah scholar utters a prayer upon entering the study hall and upon exiting. When entering, he is to say, “May it be Your Will, G-d, that no mistakes come out of my learning. That I make no mistake in Halacha. That my friends should be happy learning with me…” And, upon departure from the study hall, he says, “I thank You, G-d,  for having allotted my portion amongst those who sit in the study hall, and not amongst those who waste time…” (Shulchan Aruch O”H 110, 8)

The student prays for the highest level of success in learning, and when he leaves, he expresses his thanks for just having sat in the Study Hall?!? What about all the hopes and dreams, the aspirations this student had and prayed to achieve? He did not have a successful study session, his friends told him ‘You didn’t get it, and you made a mistake in halacha,’  and yet, he is thankful for just not sitting with the guys who chill? He is thankful for coming?!

This is the mindset of the successful student. He aspires for the stars, and settles for whatever he gets. He is happy, even if he gets 20 percent. Because 20 percent of comprehension in learning is worth so, so much.

In Daf Yomi last week, Rabbah told us the parenting tip for the generation. Rabbah would buy utensils for the little kids to break, and give them to his kids , so that they could fill their desires (in breaking the utensils). (Yoma 78b)  What is the meaning of this? The lesson here is deep. Fear of failure is rooted in fear of criticism, fear of rejection. A child is criticized for breaking things, for spilling the milk. He is taught that you can’t break things. He is reprimanded, for… being a child. So, Rabbah came up with an amazing new way for parenting. Instead of telling the kid not to break anything, tell him what he is allowed to break. Give him something that is only his, a  feeling of ownership through which he can fulfill his desire.  It shows the child that we, the parents and family, respect the child’s feeling of security, privacy, ownership and right to fail sometimes. Give your child, and yourself, something that, if it breaks, it won’t break you.

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