Kislev 5779

Picking up the Pieces

Chodesh Tov Kislev!
Kislev means that Chanukah is coming soon! (25th Kislev, 2nd December 2018 is the first night) We will celebrate the Maccabees and their defeat of the Syrian-Greeks who had destroyed the Temple, as well as the miracle of the single jar of oil that burned for eight days. The story of Chanukah can be seen as a model of how Jews have experienced destruction but always come back with greater energy to rebuild from the ashes and rededicate their institutions for the future. That is a message that European communities know well!

These ideas prompt us to think about the rich Jewish concept of “Shevirah” (brokenness). How do we deal with failure and destruction? What do we do to cope when things do not work out? Do we blame others, give up, repeat the same mistake? How do we become more resilient?


Shevirah (Brokenness)
The concept of “Shevirah” makes room for both the joys and sorrows of life, and acknowledges that we are shaped by our struggles and losses as much as our victories. In order to be whole, one must also experience brokenness.


We see the archetypal experience of brokenness in the Torah when Moses broke the first set of tablets containing the Ten Commandments, after seeing the Israelites worshipping an idol. Interestingly, the broken pieces of the tablets were preserved and kept in the Ark of the Covenant, the focal point of the Jewish nation. Even though the Israelites clearly failed in their mission, and things did not go according to plan, we hold on to the pieces of the broken tablets, perhaps to remind us of our mistakes and that brokenness is part of life; inevitable and part of our growth and development.

Growing from Failure 
What is your experience with failure? Consider when and how you failed in your professional life? What did you learn from it?

Too often if something fails we take it personally. So rather than exploring what happened and turn it into a learning experience we try to ignore it and move on. In his book, Failing Forward, John C Maxwell, outlines 7 principles for making failing a growth experience. Below is a digest of those principles and their parallel in Jewish sources.


Use this list, and this month’s sourcesheet on Shevirah, as a springboard for discussing how failure is viewed at work and lead to more open, honest conversations leading to better planning and programming.

Happy failing forward,
The Yesod Team

More Resources

For more information about this Jewish sensibility, and others, Hillel International has a great educators’ curriculum.

Learn how to Fail Forward. The Jewish Futures Conference discussed this topic and you can access their collection of articles and teachings. Ashley Good of the organisation Fail Forward spoke at this conference about how to reframe and tell stories about failure. Here is the video as well as general resources from Fail Forward.

Get inspired by Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz writing about how a righteous person is one who makes new mistakes, and Rabbi Jonathon Sacks teaches how Joseph is a model for surviving failure.

Don’t forget to check out great ideas and resources about Chanukah in Yesod’s resource archive