Yesterday I was making my rabbinical rounds around the area; visiting various businessmen, chatting with them and offering them the opportunity to put on tefillin with maybe a short Torah thought thrown in for their trouble.

One of my regular stops has always impressed with the cheerful attitude of the owner and the atmosphere of industry that is always buzzing around the joint. Here was a place, I used to think, with a well thought-out business model, led by an entrepreneur with vision, working to his plan, and rightly enjoying his much-deserved success.

A major customer had gone bankrupt overnight and left him with warehouses of overstockYesterday was a shock: Instead of the usual sight of workers cheerfully gossiping as they packed the product, instead of well-lit administration offices throbbing with paper-pushing and phone-orders, the place was like a ghost town. A couple of desultory menials listlessly sealing a half-empty container, lights dimmed all over the place, a skeleton crew of secretarial staff filing their nails; light years from what I have come to expect.

In all this frenetic hive of inaction, one exception stood out like the beacon of light which shone from his office: the owner; shirt sleeves way up his biceps, piles of papers sliding around the desk and a phone welded to his ear.

His face lit up in the usual manner at my tentative tap on his door. He eagerly stood to wrap the straps, all the while chitchatting with me as if nothing at all was amiss. I was almost afraid to ask, but couldn't contain my curiosity.

Turns out a major customer had gone bankrupt overnight; left him with a huge unpaid back-order and warehouses of overstock.

Though I tried to summon some platitudes of comfort, he was having nothing of it. "I started off with nothing," he declared, "G‑d blessed me till now, and this is just a temporary setback. Gives me the opportunity to try some other products, take the company in a whole new direction."

I am in awe of his determination and focus. It reminds me of the explanation brought in the classic book of Tanya to the verse "For a righteous man may fall seven times, and yet he rises": Man is obliged to constantly reach for new heights. One who is static may not fall, but will definitely not rise. Even someone content to take finite, baby steps wouldn't abandon his former level before establishing a foothold on the next. Only someone who has the energy and imagination to attempt to fly needs to "fall," if only in comparison with his previous level.

Just as before attempting to jump, one bends one's knees; lowering oneself, if you will, in order to achieve maximum elevation on takeoff, so, too the temporary road-humps on our path through life are really G‑d's ramp, helping us shoot into the stratosphere.

If you aspire to mature you must first purge yourself of your previous levelIn spirituality, your finite previous self actually hinders your progress, and if you aspire to mature you must first purge yourself of your previous level. The same is true of life. My friend has faith that this setback is just the opportunity he needed to clear his mind from the small-stakes he was bidding for till now and a chance to focus on taking his rightful seat at a new table. And with that determination and attitude, how could he not succeed?

At this time of year our focus is on commemorating the national calamity that has been our lot over the two thousand odd years since the destruction of the Temple. We fast and pray in an effort to persuade G‑d to redeem us and build us a third, permanent, Temple. The setbacks we as a nation have suffered are not just some cosmic joke played out on us by an unfeeling, malicious Divinity; rather they have been the longest and greatest training run in history, forcing us to build up our stamina for the blastoff that lies ahead.

Only a people who have suffered as we have, can anticipate a payoff of the magnitude that we deserve. The vicissitudes of fate have toughened and tempered us, awakened us to look for new opportunities, and guaranteed us a future of redemption and happiness, beyond even our overloaded expectations.