There are many positions on a baseball team, and one of the most grueling is that of the catcher, the one who crouches behind home plate and catches 100-mile-an-hour fastballs from the pitcher while cracking his kneecaps.

Baseball analysts claim that one of the most valuable things a catcher provides is something called “framing.” This is the art of catching the ball in a way that when it’s just off the edge of the strike zone and can be called a ball, the way the catcher positions his glove when grabbing the incoming pitch makes it look like a strike.

The moral of the story?

You, too, should be good at “framing.”


The opening words of the Torah portion of Massei recount the Jewish journey through the desert:

These are the journeys of the children of Israel who left the land of Egypt in their legions, under the charge of Moses and Aaron.

Moses recorded their starting points for their journeys according to the word of G‑d, and these were their journeys with their starting points.1

Why is it important to list the journeys? The Torah isn’t a history book, nor is it a travelogue, so what’s the purpose of this list?

The Midrash explains:

It is analogous to a king whose son became sick, so he took him to a faraway place to have him healed. On the way back, the father began citing all the stages of their journey, saying to him, “This is where we sat, here we were cold, and here you had a headache.” Likewise, G‑d instructed Moses to list all the places the Jewish people angered G‑d. Thus, it is stated, “These are the journeys.”2

So it turns out that recounting all the journeys was to recall the difficult times and challenges the people underwent as they traveled through the vast desert.

But that doesn’t really answer our question, what’s the point? Why go through the psychologically and emotionally painful process of listing these locations and their negative associations? Why bring up this national trauma now that it was all behind them and they were poised to finally enter the Promised Land?

Failure Is a Springboard

The purpose of this collective therapy session was to re-experience the pitfalls and recognize them for what they really were—springboards for growth.

To explain:

Perhaps one of the more refreshing ideas developed in the canon of Chassidic work is the notion that every “fall” is to facilitate greater growth. From things as banal as a kid on a trampoline pressing down on the fabric to soar high in the air, all the way to deep challenges of grief, pain, and trauma, it is axiomatic that such challenges exist only as a springboard to lift the protagonist to greater heights.

The thing is, however, in the thick of the challenge, it is difficult to see it. Of course, “hindsight is 20/20,” so looking back, it’s easy to see how losing your job pushed you to finally start your own successful business. “All’s well that ends well,” they tell you. But in those weeks, months, or years without a job, when you were racking up considerable debt, it’s almost certain that you didn’t think you were on the way up.

For this reason, it is important to pause after the fact, after you have reached safe ground and are indeed “up,” to revisit the “down” and reframe it for yourself. By doing so, you are able to gain proper perspective and understand how those low moments were, in fact, exactly what you needed to bring you to the Promised Land.

And next time things go off the rails and life looks like a dumpster fire, you’re ready. You know that it’s only a matter of time until the sun peaks above the horizon and you inevitably fling up right through your next glass ceiling.

So, just prior to entering the Land, after a long and arduous journey replete with many “downs,” the people revisited and reexamined all of those downs, now able to understand how they were really just springboards for the next and final “up”—to bring them to the doorstep of redemption.

The precision of the Midrash’s analogy is now clear: The king points out all the locations with negative associations on the way back home. In the analogy of life, this is exactly how it works: on the way down, while we experience material, moral, and spiritual pitfalls, we are only able to see them as negative. It is on the climb back up that we can point and say, “Ah… now I see how losing my job was the best thing that could have happened to me!”

Proper Framing

Oh, how tremendously healing it is to be a good framer! When you take the time and effort to look through time and see how past challenges and failures are what brought you to the current plateau, it is eminently empowering.

Think back to past failures or challenging moments. If you’re human, they must have happened. And now, take a moment to see if and how they were ultimately necessary steps to your next success. If you can’t see it right away, be a persistent framer, and try again. Be stubborn, and you’ll find it.

And when you rack up a record of failures-turned-success, you will possess an invaluable asset: practical immunity to the next challenge. Of course, if and when the inevitable hit-on-your-head comes your way it’s going to hurt, it will be challenging, and it may just stretch your nerves and your wherewithal to the limit.

But you know the secret. If you’re falling this hard and this low, the diving board of life is going to toss you up so high, it will be exhilarating. It’s hard to see it right now, but it’s right around the corner.

Hold on tight, and you’ll be there very soon.3