Effort or outcome?

Friday, 12 May, 2023 - 3:18 am

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Effort or outcome?

Which is most important?

It depends.

If you are going to eat in a restaurant and the food is too salty, the fact that the chef invested a lot of effort is not going to mean much.

When it comes to relationships it’s a totally different story. With human relationships, effort is supremely important.

Imagine a woman who finds a beautiful bouquet of flowers waiting on her doorstep. They may have been delivered in the name of her husband. But if the wife discovers that it’s her husband’s secretary (or AI) that bought the flowers for their anniversary based on an automated reminder in the ‘to do list’, it won’t have the desired effect.

If it was effortless, it will be meaningless.

Kids have it figured out instinctively.

It’s not by coincidence that when things are hectic, babies and toddlers (and even teens) are needy and start vying for their parents’ attention.

When things are calm and the parents coddle them and play with them, that is fine. However, this does not mean that they are the most important thing in their parents’ universe. They are subconsciously looking for an even deeper love. The love that comes out of making a great effort. Like when the parents are caught up with the hecticness of life and need to carve out space for their kids. If you get the cues and give the attention, it will release a lot of the tension.

This has been embedded into creation by the Creator. The greater the efforts that you put forth for something the more meaningful it becomes. The more you work on a relationship with someone, the deeper you connect to that person.

It is very much that way when it comes to our relationship with G-d.

Hashem instructs us to do Mitzvahs so that we have a way to connect to Him.

How can you connect to G-d who is infinite, only when He gives you a path to connect to Him. That is what Mitzvahs are. Connectors.

Hashem desires our connection to Him.

Not just when it comes easy and without effort.

Hashem wants to see how we relate to him when it is not easy.

Hashem cherishes our efforts. The harder the effort the dearer it is to Hashem.

And He rewards us commensurate to our efforts. We are rewarded not (only) based on outcome, but based on how much effort and strain we encountered along the way.

Our sages said it in the Ethics of our Fathers (5, 21): ‘According to the ‘pain’ (aka effort) is the reward’.

The Rebbe takes this teaching and deepens the meaning, from which the following life lesson emerges.  

Why do people get stuck in life without having the energy to get to where they really want.

For many people, it’s fear of failure that holds them back from trying something new.

Here is a simple example.

Riding a bicycle usually involves one or two falls as you learn to balance yourself. Kids are usually flexible and used to falling as they romp around. The fear of falling is usually not a deterrent for them.

When it comes to adults, the fear of falling is scarier and thus it is more difficult to acquire bicycle riding balancing skills. (For me this applies with ice skating as I go around the rink at our ‘Chanuka on Ice’ event, clutching onto the railings).

When it comes to making career changes, launching a new business or relocating to a new place, it is often scary as the future is unknown.

Super optimists may not be so bothered and just move on without thinking.

But let’s face it. It’s nice to be optimistic but one should also have a healthy does of realism. It seems safe to say that in life, if you embark on something bold and daring, there is a chance that you may not be successful.

What happens when an idea is unsuccessful. Isn’t it a waste of time and resources?

And then isn’t there really something to be fearful about?


If your agenda in life is ‘bottom line’ and amassing money and assets, then you are indeed taking a gamble.

Embarking on a new business may yield success or may be unsuccessful.

And if you end up being without profits and even worse, in debt, you will not have achieved your objective. And your vendors may not respect your efforts.

With all the goodwill in the world, you cannot take ‘efforts’ to the bank. If you don’t have money in the bank to pay the electricity bill, the explanations to the electricity company about how hard you are trying, won’t keep the power on.

Being fearful of failure in this case may actually be prudent and protect you from falling into crippling debt.

Especially if you are not young and have other people reliant on you.

If you were prophet and knew the future, the wise thing would be, not to embark on the new venture.

With our relationship with G-d, it’s totally different.

When embarking on something ambitious to deepen your relationship with G-d, holding back because of fear of failure is a missed opportunity.

Say a person is considering taking on a commitment to give more Tzedaka to help others. Right now, it looks like a bold undertaking. Not impossible and not totally unreasonable. Just somewhat ambitious and it may be that he will not be able to fully carry through on it.

The fear that he may not be successful in carrying out his commitment dampers his enthusiasm. His internal voice of caution tells him that he should not even make the commitment.

It can be argued, says that little ‘negatively inclined’ voice, dressed up in robes of piety, that it is wise and holy to be prudent in this case.

‘Undertaking something that may be too large, may harm your connection to Hashem’.

‘If you don’t succeed in carrying out your commitment you will fall into ‘spiritual debt’ to Hashem for not succeeding’, argues the inner voice.

What indeed happens if after a person tried and strained and pushed himself to the maximum, he failed. In terms of measurable outcomes that is. He promised xyz and underdelivered.

Perhaps he would be better off not having endeavored the bold leap that he took.

The Rebbe sees this Mishnaic statement ‘according to the pain/effort is the reward’ as an answer to this dilemma.

Hashem welcomes, cherishes, values honest efforts. To prove the point, He even gives reward for efforts that turn out to be fruitless.

Even when the efforts remain just that. Painful and strenuous efforts. Without a successful outcome.

It’s almost like saying that if you had a time machine and saw that in the future your undertaking wouldn’t succeed, you would still be blessed for taking on a good resolution and working hard and vigorously to fulfil your commitment.

In Hashem’s Eyes, the undertaking, the efforts and the straining, are valuable and treasured. Regardless of the success of the outcome.

Moreover, the greater the ‘pain’ the greater the ‘gain’.

So, let’s get a bit more audacious in setting our sights higher and broader.

(Not in a deranged and unrealistic way. That is foolish, not brave).  

The Sages teach us that Hashem cherishes our efforts even if they are not successful.

My friends, is there anything more ‘successful’ than Hashem treasuring one’s efforts?

This is the beauty of being in a relationship with Hashem.

If you live your life as He instructs your every activity is a part of the mosaic of G-d’s work here on earth.

You are like a full time ‘employee’ of Heaven. In whatever you do. From the mundane to the holy.

And your measure for success is not judged by how much ‘value’ you brought as an outcome.

Rather your mission is to put forth every effort.

The only question that really matters is ‘how hard you tried to be what you can be’.

This message was the topic of the ‘Sicha’ I taught at the Thursday night Torah class (in person and Zoom) and follows the Project Likkutei Sichos cycle.

Hashem sent me the message when I really needed it.

It is all about our efforts.

That is what is asked of us.


That is gifted by Hashem.

When it comes to Hashem, He values and cherishes efforts. Strenuous efforts are even more treasured. When you don’t yet get the outcome you need, it doesn’t mean you were not successful. As long as you tried, you are already successful.

Perhaps Hashem is delaying the success and telling you that you need to try even harder.

Friends, if you are thinking about doing something that you know Hashem wants, an additional Mitzvah, some more Torah, helping more people, don’t overthink it.

Even if you engage in something as mundane as raising funds for startups. (Over the last few weeks, I have met by Divine Providence three people in the startup industry in Israel. This is why this example jumps to my mind). If your overall agenda is G-d based your business endeavors are also a ‘mission’ from G-d. For example, if your product is adding goodness to humanity, if your intention is to give more employment to those who need to support their families, grow the economy of Israel, or if you wish to make profits to do kindness and tzedakah, this message about the value of efforts unrelated to outcomes, applies to you as well.

It is not just the successful outcome that is important. Hashem relishes your genuine efforts in bettering the world as well.

Let us stop hesitating about moving forward to do what Hashem wants.

Take a leap.

Try your best. Even strain yourself beyond your comfort zone.

Hashem tells us in the Torah that ‘yagaata umatzata’ ‘strenuous toil leads to finding successes’.

And in the event that you don’t yet see the outcome you are awaiting, reframe your understanding of the word success to incorporate ‘success = making maximum efforts’ to fulfil your commitment to Hashem.

May Hashem crown the efforts of His people Am Yisrael with success.

May there be peace and protection in Israel and in the entire world.

We want Mashiach NOW.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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