Photo Credit: Jodie Maoz

One of our chol hamoed outings a few years ago was indoor rock climbing. The facility boasts numerous forty-foot climbs to the roof of the building, each climb varying in difficulty and level of challenge. [For those skeptics out there, I climbed one of the walls. At the top there was a bell, and I made sure the entire room was aware that I made it to the top.] It was fun and gratifying to watch each of our children try the different climbs. [They have a lot of practice climbing walls in our home.] I particularly enjoyed watching our then five-year-old daughter Chayala. I was impressed that she was willing to put on the harness and even attempt to climb at all. The first few times she didn’t get very far up at all, and only a few feet off the ground her feet slid off the footholds and she was left hanging from her harness, before descending back to the ground. But that hardly stopped her from trying again, and again, and again. I loved watching her determination and persistence which precluded her from focusing on her failure to get very far the first few times. The truth is that Chayala never did make it to the top, but no one can accuse her of not giving it her all and climbing a respectful amount.

On September 12, 1962, President JFK gave a motivating speech at Rice University in Houston, Texas, in which he discussed his resolve and assurance that America would be the first country to send someone to the moon. He added that it would be done before the end of the century. It was a bold statement considering that at the time, the USA was far behind the USSR in the development and accomplishments of its space program. In the end, President Kennedy’s assertion came true, though he didn’t live to witness it.


During that talk Kennedy noted that he was well aware of the challenge of trying to fulfill his dream. Yet he was unequivocal: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard… We choose to go because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

Because we are so blessed with material comfort and convenience, we need to remember that growth and greatness only come with exertion, persistence, and effort. Discomfort, and often pain, are par for the course.

Rock climbing serves as a great analogy for all worthy accomplishments of life. All of one’s bones may ache and be crying out for relief, but if he is fueled by motivation and ambition he will obstinately push onward, pulling himself up with every surge. Part of the euphoric feeling of reaching the top includes the knowledge that one has pushed himself beyond your comfort zone. Whenever we extend our limitations, we feel elated and encouraged.

The path to growth also includes knowing that somewhere along the way you may lose your footing and slip. But as long as your harness remains firm and you’re able to pull yourself back onto your path you’ll eventually reach the top. Just remember that everyone’s “top” is different.


Previous articleWord Prompt – BLUE – Dr. Rivka Press Schwartz
Next articleAlbany Beat – April 28, 2023
Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is a popular speaker and author as well as a rebbe in Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, NJ. He has recently begun seeing clients in private practice as part of the Rockland CBT group. For appointments and speaking engagements, contact 914-295-0115 or [email protected]. Archives of his writings can be found at