We need failure. The world is designed in such a way that people can fail—and fail so often. So often that at times it seems there is more failure than success.

We all need failure. Failure, you see, is the only way you can fall out of the script.

Yes, that’s frightening. Your very essence is intrinsically bound with this script. The script is the primordial thought of G‑d, of a breath of Himself descending into the constrictions of a physical body with earthly drives, of that breath reaching back up to its origin and carrying all the world along with it—it was within this script that your soul was originally conceived.

Failure, you see, is the only way you can fall out of the script.

And now, instead of reaching up to Him, what if you decide to reach downward into the darkness? What if, instead of repairing His world, you bring it into yet further confusion? What if, instead of rescuing divine sparks, you bury them yet further?

That’s not what your soul is about, or what it came here for. That’s not in the script—not for your soul, not for the world in which it was invested. What now?

Now, even if you go back to do all the right things, back to fixing and connecting, you’ll still be left with a gaping hole, an absence of light where light should have been, a gaping wound festering with chaos where tikkun was meant to come, and nothing in the script to address that hole—since that emptiness, that chaos was never meant to be.

So now G‑d looks down, shakes His head and says, “Well, I guess now you’re going to have to write your own script.”

Which you do. You take your life in your hands and turn it around. You say, “I don’t like what I did. I’m not going to be that person anymore.” And you carry that plan into action.

Just Do It

The word for this in Hebrew is teshuvah תשובה, which means “return.” It also means taking ownership of your own life.

Distraught and wearied by his journeys, the young man finally came to the tzaddik Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, and cried bitterly, “Rabbi, I sinned! The worst sins! How do I do teshuvah? I went to many rabbis, but none could help me!”

“And before you sinned,” the rabbi asked, “did you ask anyone for advice how to do that?”

“No,” he confessed, “I just sinned.”

“So just do teshuvah,” the rabbi replied, “the same way you just sinned.”

Meaning: Just as your failure was not scripted for you, but was purely from you alone, so too your teshuvah can come only from you alone.

No one returns because they were told to do so. At the point of return, you revolve by your power alone.

No one returns because they were told to do so. At the point of return, you revolve by your power alone.

Out of Nowhere

From where did that script come? From where did you get that power? When G‑d thought of your soul, He didn’t see it there. Which means it wasn’t anywhere else in the whole of creation, or in the Creator’s concept of creation. Where was it? It never was. It never emerged from the nothingness into being.

Which means that when you go ahead after doing this crazy mess-up and write your own script, you are reaching back deeper than the place from whence your soul was breathed, reaching deeper and pulling something out from there that never was. From that place we call ha’atzmut—the core essence of G‑d.

The term for this place is he’elem ha’atzmi, which means “the intrinsically hidden.” Call it, if you will, G‑d’s subconscious. After all, consciousness is not G‑d. G‑d exists before there is anything at all, including consciousness. If we would call it that, then we would say that by getting it right you can reach into G‑d’s consciousness, but no further. But when failure befalls you, then by picking yourself back up, you reach to a place the perfectly righteous could never know.

Which explains the statement of the rabbis, “In the place where stands the one who has failed and returned, the perfectly righteous are incapable of standing.” Of course they can’t stand there. For them, it doesn’t even exist.

The Good, the Bad and the Very Good

How is the soul capable of reaching there through teshuvah? Because that is truly its place.

For ultimately, this soul, this breath of G‑d, begins before the script begins, before existence begins, in the utter darkness and mystery we called G‑d’s subconscious. Now to that place it returns, back to its ultimate origin, before it crossed the threshold of being to become a conscious thought.

What about the repair of the world you were supposed to make? What happens to those lost sparks your soul was meant to find?

With your return, they return along with you. The past is transformed as well, since you have reached to a place beyond time. And yet deeper, sparks that could never have been reached directly, those that were tied down and bound by the forces of darkness, and therefore prohibited—you have reached to them and now carry them upwards.

Now, even the past is redeemed.

Yet even that is not enough. Writing a new script means you need to accomplish something entirely new. And you do. Because now not only the spark is redeemed; even the darkness it generated is transformed to light.

“And G‑d saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.”

“Good,” say the sages, refers to the capacity to do good. “Very good” includes the capacity to fail. To fail and then to do good. And that is “very good”—beyond anything the script could have contained.