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Response to Failure

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As a parent or an educator, there is a challenge which can come up routinely. When our child or our student misbehaves, what should we do? 

There are different strategies and approaches that one can take. One can be critical. One can get upset. In this week’s haftarah, God has a similar challenge and takes an interesting approach. The Jewish people have been enmeshed in sin. God instructs the prophet Ezekiel to share a vision with them (Ezek. 43:10-11). A future vision of what the Third Temple will look like, in great detail with its measurements and vessels. 

God’s goal is to make the Jewish people feel ashamed of their actions. When they see that in spite of their sinning, God not only loves them but has a great plan in store for them, it will hopefully take them from a place of shame to a place of positive action. The action of ultimately building the Third Temple.

This is a really counterintuitive strategy. It’s telling you that when someone has failed, you shouldn’t tell them that they failed or that they did wrong. You need to tell them all the good things that are going to happen in their life moving forward. There might be some shame that they did wrong, but you still believe in them. 

The Torah is beautifully indicating that this can lead towards feelings of positivity. They will realize that they did mess up, but if you believe in them, then they believe in themselves. It’s a really beautiful message for parents, for educators, and for all of us. If you are someone who’s ever erred or sinned in your own life, remember that there are people and God that love you and have great things in store for you. It’s a really profound counterintuitive message in this week’s haftarah for Parsha Tetzaveh.

Always a pleasure learning with you. More next week.

This essay is part of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah’s weekly parsha wisdom. Each week, graduates of YCT share their thoughts on the parsha, refracted through the lens of their rabbinates and the people they are serving, with all of us.

About the Author
Rabbi Gabe Greenberg is the Executive Director at Penn Hillel. Gabe received semicha from YCT in 2012. Gabe has worked in pluralistic Jewish settings around the country, serving as a rabbinic educator at UC Berkeley Hillel, a congregational rabbi in New Orleans, and the founder of an organic farming Jewish learning program in Baltimore.
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