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Toldot(Genesis 25:19-28:9)

Big Person, Big Mistakes

It's interesting to note that every one of the great founders and leaders of Judaism made mistakes. Not just minor mistakes, they made big mistakes. In this week's Torah portion, for example, Isaac believes that Esav -- a murderer, adulterer and thief -- should become the leader of the fledgling Jewish people in place of Jacob, his righteous brother.

My father-in-law likes to remind his children constantly that "only God is perfect." Making mistakes is part of being human. And we see very clearly that small men make small mistakes, but great men make great mistakes.

The reason is obvious. A person can lock himself away in his own little ivory tower. By avoiding the challenges inherent within changing his world, he will also avoid the risks associated with doing so. He might not make too many mistakes, but he will not achieve all that much, either. Mediocrity is readily available to all of us.

Great people, however, stick their necks out. They take personal risks in order to make a difference. They are not afraid of challenging situations and not afraid to engage the world. But the bigger the stakes you play with, the more significant the mistakes when you make them. One of the signs of a great man is that his mistakes are big mistakes. But his accomplishments are equally impressive.

The path of least resistance might lead to fewer mistakes, but it will also mean missing the opportunity to leave a lasting impression on the world. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob may have made great mistakes, but their accomplishments changed the world forever.

 

Published: September 22, 2007

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