"Do you give up yet? Say Uncle. C'mon – say it." Who among us – at least once in his or her childhood – hasn't been pinned down during a wresting match by a sibling or some other kid, sitting on our chest, our arms trapped under his or her bony-yet-relentlessly-strong knees?

After we have weighed our options for escape, we see we have no choice, or we do a cost-benefit analysis and calculate how much physical pain we would have to endure or the possible places on our body that could get sprained or broken just in order to avoid the humiliation. You win. And therefore, I lose. "Uncle."

You win. And therefore, I loseAs an adult, I still experience some version of this type of loss fairly often. Just yesterday, I was at Walmart in the very rural country. I had never seen aisles in a store devoted to mobile home and RV accessories. I now know what a sack of deer corn looks like. And I was thirsty, so I put a dollar into the drink machine thinking it was so "old-fashioned" that a bottle of cold water only costs seventy-five cents. But the machine just ate my dollar – no water, no change, no money back.

The friendly Walmart helper man directed me to customer service. I got my game face on. I saw, but then ignored, the long line of people with carts heaped to overflowing with returns. I pretended not to notice their menacing looks that said plain as day: "Jew girl, don't even think about jumping this line." "Bring it on," I beamed back, and I jumped the line.

The customer service person wasn't into providing any actual service, however, and recited the "rule" was that she can only open the cash register during each person's transaction, and the "rule" was I would have to wait in line for my own "transaction." I asked her if there was a "rule" about not ripping off the customers. I was looking into a face with less expression, if possible, than a sack of deer corn. "Uncle."

On a brighter and more sophisticated note, I am reading a book entitled, The Art of Learning, by Josh Waitzkin. If you ever saw the movie, Searching for Bobbie Fisher, he was the young chess genius who was the subject of the movie. As he grew up, he won twenty-one national chess championships. He then completely walked away from the game and rather swiftly became just as successful in the field of martial arts.

He describes a learning process, which he calls "investing in loss" or "losing to win." It looks nothing like crying "uncle" or giving up. Investment in loss means giving yourself to the learning process. The idea is not to clash with your opponent, but to blend with his energy, to yield to it and overcome with softness, to defeat a thousand pounds with four ounces.

For a beginner, however, it is counterintuitive to meet force with purposeful non-resistance, to overcome the physical instinct to push back, brace yourself, and try to hold your ground. The biggest challenge for the beginning student is to release the ego, to allow him or herself to be tossed around in training while he or she learns not to resist, to give up the need to be correct. "In order to grow, the student needs to give up his current mindset. The student needs to lose to win."

The biggest challenge for the beginning student is to give up the need to be correctWhat is essential is a willingness to forgo the need to look good during the learning process, and to learn to take risks for the sake of growth. My first job after I had attended violin-making school, was in a repair shop. The owner was skilled at repairs, and I asked her whether she had any interest in actually making a violin. "I thought about it," she replied, "but I wouldn't be able to make a perfect violin, and if I can't make a perfect violin, I am not interested." I didn't know the specific concept "investing in loss," but I realized even then that someone so constrained by an impossible ideal would never inspire me (much less be someone I could consistently please), and my tenure there was short-lived.

Torah teaches that you have to be a vessel for Torah to enter. Think about it – if you're "full of yourself," what room is there for another person, another opinion, a new concept? Although I was not conscious of what I was doing, when I made the decision to become Torah observant, I was "investing in loss."

I was in my mid-thirties, had made a big career change and was now practicing law – successfully, even. I knew "what was what." Living a Torah-observant life was like entering a parallel universe, a kind of a Twilight Zone experience (am I dating myself with that one?). Everything was the same, but different. I didn't know everything anymore, and what I thought I "knew" kept bumping up against a whole new system. I had to release my ego, drop my old mindset in order to take in and take on this new life. I had to be a beginner, to be OK with "not looking good". I had to invest in loss. But it was my choice.

What about losses that are imposed on us? I don't mean the low-level loss from the seemingly daily petty and aggravating grind of life, where you cry "uncle" just because you don't have the time to deal with stupid stuff, but the big issues, like people dying, and being sick, very, very sick. I have been ostensively Torah observant for over fifteen years now, but there is a place in me where I never changed.

I don't have bitachon (trust) in G‑d.

My father loved me as a child, but when I needed a White Knight to rescue me from horrific and unrelenting abuse, from the circumstances he left me in, he went riding off in the other direction. I know it's a childish and irrational projection, but that's how I sum up my heavenly Father: the One up there who has no malice towards me, but is certainly not dependable, who will lure me into a false sense of security, if I let Him, but then will pull the rug out and disappear in the middle of the night. I keep the commandments as best as I can but I think it's best just to stay out of G‑d's way, to fly under the radar, so to speak.

Someone so constrained by an impossible ideal would never inspire me A few months ago, my community lost to cancer one of the finest and most remarkable men I have ever known. For months, the community prayed for him, took on good deeds, learned, etc. Very righteous rabbis prayed for him. I felt bitter and angry towards G‑d at his death, but resigned – after all, this is the G‑d I know – not there in a clutch.

At the funeral, the family spoke of how he never complained, never felt bitter, was always joyful, and used the last months of his life growing closer and closer to his family and especially to G‑d. What am I supposed to do with that?

Today, I have a Really Big Problem. As I sit here writing this, another very close friend lies on an operating table at Sloan Kettering, hours now into a surgery so serious and extensive, that there is a chance he will not make it through. Without this surgery, however, a near and certain death is around the corner. He has been sequestered in New York for months undergoing rounds of chemotherapy to shrink a tumor almost the length of his torso.

Not only did months of hellish treatment not shrink the tumor, but almost as if to mock him, it has actually grown, and is now squeezing the life out of his vital organs. He is fifty years old. To keep his sanity, my friend keeps a blog, and last night, in what could be the last entry of his life, he thanked G‑d for His abundant kindness, and he expressed his joyful appreciation.

What am I supposed to do with that? Once again, the community is united in prayer. Many people are reciting Tehillim (Psalms). Not me. I sit here paralyzed. I cannot pour my heart out to You. You see, I just can't be that little girl waiting, waiting for You to show up. I can't be that vulnerable. I don't want to put my belief to the test. I don't want to plead for the life of a friend and be turned down again. Do what You will – just don't make me beg. Don't make me cry "uncle."

The day is wearing on. I cannot sit here and do nothing. But I can't bring myself to be inauthentic, either. Meanwhile, my friend's life hangs in the balance. What can I do, is there anything I can do, to tip the balance? Maybe. Possibly. Yes. Can I invest in loss? Can I lose to win?

I didn’t know everything anymore, and what I thought I “knew” kept bumping up against a whole new systemI survived years of childhood abuse by not crying, by never asking for mercy. In those situations, I never – ever – cried "uncle." That's how I felt I could win, how I could maintain my personal power. I have never given this up. A piece of my heart is like a stone, but I always felt like it was the only place where I was really me, a place where even You could not enter.

Today, I cannot give You words from the prayer book; neither can I recite the ancient words of comfort, but I can give You this. I can lay upon your holy altar the wounds of my childhood. I can offer up this hardness of my heart. Can I risk feeling foolish and vulnerable if I trust You? I will not resist, nor will I brace myself against You whatever the outcome. I tremble as I write this. After all, I take written promises very seriously.

We are approaching Rosh Hashanah. The month preceding, Elul, is an acronym for "I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me." Is it possible to have an intimate connection with You? I have no problem with fear and awe, but can the G‑d that makes my friends die and get sick be my Beloved?

I wonder – is my lack of trust the real opponent here? The obstacles, the barriers I have put up in my illusion of a defense, my last vestige of the fantasy of control – I offer it to You. I chose to lose this place in myself that I thought was my secret place of power. There is no place in me where I bid You no welcome. Can we just start this relationship over? I yield to You, willingly.

And if that has any merit, any value whatsoever to You, if this is a good thing in Your eyes, then please, please, please send a complete recovery to my friend. His name is Michoel ben Yehudis Miriam.

Editor's Note: I am thrilled to let you know that Michoel ben Yehudis Miriam will be spending Rosh Hashanah with his beautiful family, following a successful surgery. He was released from the hospital and sent home on his twenty-third wedding anniversary!