Why Do We Fall Down?

FallingFor after I fell, I have arisen… –Michah 7:8

The Midrash comments: “Had I not fallen, I would not have arisen,” and so indicates that some heights are not attainable without an antecedent fall.

Obviously, no one designs a fall in the hope that it may lead to a greater elevation. Michah’s message, however, is that if a person should suffer a reversal, he or she should not despair, because it may be a necessary prelude to achieving a higher level than would have been possible otherwise.

We can find many analogies to this concept. When we swing a pickaxe, we first lower it behind ourselves in order to deliver a blow with maximum force. Runners often back up behind the starting line to get a “running start.” In many things, starting from a “minus” position provides a momentum that would otherwise not be attainable.

When things are going well, most people let well enough alone. The result? Mediocrity has become acceptable. Changing might involve some risk, and even if we could achieve greater things, we might not wish to take a chance when things are proceeding quite satisfactorily. However, when we are in an intolerable situation, we are compelled to do something, and this impetus may bring about creativity and progress.

We even see this concept in the account of creation in Genesis. First there was darkness, then came light.

Today I shall…

realize that a reversal may be the seed of future growth, and I must never despair.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Av 24”

If you’re a movie goer, this piece of advice may sound very close to another slice of “conventional wisdom.” uttered by actor Michael Caine:

Why do we fall sir? So we might learn to pick ourselves up.

Batman Begins (2005)

In yesterday’s meditation, I talked about the value of prayer as a conversation with a very special “traveling companion.” Our relationship with God, once we become aware that there is a God and that He wants us to relate to him, is no simple matter. But then, what do you expect from having daily interactions with the infinite, unknowable, radical One God?

But relationships with other people and even with ourselves aren’t particularly easy, either. A life of faith can be a struggle. We take on board beliefs and a trust in our Creator that not only does the world fail to comprehend, but that we ourselves often puzzle over.

It can be very disheartening, hence the need to continually relate to God.

But like I said, it’s not just about “me and Jesus.” It’s much more than that.

Spend time thinking about the virtues of other people. Not merely as a passing thought – but try to feel pleasure in thinking of their virtues.

-Rabbi Reuven Dov Dessler
Tnuas Hamussar, vol.5, p.180;
see Rabbi Pliskin’s “Gateway to Happiness,” p.103

What does considering and celebrating the virtues of others have to do with learning to get up again once we’ve fallen down?


A tradition handed down from Rebbe to Rebbe: During the well-known conflict (between chassidim and their opponents) the chassidim told the Alter Rebbe about the terrible abuse they suffered from the plain misnagdic folk. The Rebbe said: Grandfather (as he called the Baal Shem Tov) deeply loved simple folk. In my first days in Mezritch, the Rebbe, (the Maggid) said: “It was a frequent customary remark of the Rebbe (Baal Shem Tov) that love of Israel is love of G-d. “You are children of Hashem your G-d”; when one loves the father one loves the children.

“Today’s Day”
Wednesday, Menachem Av 24, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan

I’ve said before that not only is it impossible to truly love God without loving people, but that loving God, loving others, and taking care of yourself are all wrapped up into one big package. It comes full circle in helping us to realize that God intensely, completely loves us…all of us. Our deep responsibility to help others is only a reflection of God’s desire to care for and to love us.

Whenever we fall, whether due to disease, injury, or most commonly, emotional and spiritual discouragement, we depend on God to help lift us up again. Often, that help comes in the form of another human being. So it stands to reason that when we see someone else who has fallen, we should unreservedly strive to help that person stand back up again.

You may believe that God doesn’t answer your prayers when you need Him to the most. On the other hand, maybe God’s “agent” for that answer simply hasn’t arrived yet. The other side of the coin is that when you have the opportunity to help someone out, please be timely, because God sent you to be the answer to their prayers.

Why do other people fall down? So that we can do God’s will in helping them back up.

2 thoughts on “Why Do We Fall Down?”

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