BlogElul Day 15: Learn

This post is part of the #blogelul project started by the inimitable Ima On (and off) the Bima. I am using it as my motivation to rejuvenate this site and get myself back into the swing of things.

blogelulI still can’t speak Hebrew.

After 3 years of minimal practice (not counting stumbling through services 3 times a day), incredibly and against all logic, I am still not fluent.

Pathetic, right?

Of course, when you put it like that, it doesn’t sound QUITE as upsetting as it is in my own head. When you put it like that, it’s pretty easy to see why I’m not “there” yet, and what it would take to get where I want to go.

What’s really happening here is that, as an adult, I have forgotten how to learn. More to the point, I’ve forgotten that learning – real learning that isn’t just a re-organization of facts or skills I already know; real learning that sticks with me for the long haul – that kind of learning is mostly failure.

Recently, Rabbi Davidovich of Heights Jewish Center Synagogue noted that a baby’s life is a constant series of (sometimes spectacular) failure. Failure to sit up, failure to roll over, failure to get that sparkly-noisy-happy-thingy in my mouth.

And while babies are certainly experts at expressing their discomfort, rarely do you see them get truly angry about their day of failures. And they never throw up their hands and say “that’s it. I’m just never going to walk. It’s not part of my core skills. I’ll focus on improving my already impressive drool-on-the-carpet talent instead.”

A child’s life is filled with failed attempts, until the moment of success. A child fails to stand up, until he does. Fails to read, until she does. And so it goes.
Here in the month of Elul, as we analyze our actions and intents over the past year and prepare to stand before the True Judge and take account for them, I think it is important to understand the value of failure as a part of the learning process.

As long as we are honest with ourselves, and honest in our intent to learn and grow, we can allow our failings to stand not as fatal flaws, but as expected steps toward success.