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Learning from the Mistakes of Others

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 23/5/2020

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Fascinating Insights—The Sefer (in English)

Learning from the Mistakes of Others

While many may learn from personal experiences, one can also learn from the experience of others.[1] This is why the section of Sota and Nazir are placed next to each other since one who sees a Sota in her disgrace should abstain from wine by becoming a Nazir as wine can lead to adultery.[2] In this way we can grasp איזהו חכם הלומד מכל אדם, who is wise, one who learns from everyone.[3] This includes even learning from the mistakes of others. An example of this would be wealthy people. Many of them have achieved their wealth by learning from the mistakes of others such as where they failed in businesses. This message is taught to us in Parshas Shlach as the section of the spies is put next to the section about Miriam’s criticism of Moshe since she was stricken because of her speech, yet the spies didn’t learn from this and spoke negatively about Eretz Yisrael.[4] Why make your own mistakes if you can simply learn from the mistakes of others![5] 

Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

[1] This would include taking a lesson from an earthquake in a foreign country to do Teshuva.

[2] Bamidbar 6:2, Rashi.

[3] Avos 4:1.

[4] 13:2, Rashi.

[5] When one learns from the mistakes of others, he can excel more than he would have since he doesn’t need those setbacks in his personal life to learn that lesson. Even if one still needs this setback in his life to learn this lesson, it can still be ingrained in him more if he also takes the lessons from the mistakes of others.

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