Setting goals is important. Achieving them is hard. It is hard to get started on a path, it is hard to deal with all the obstacles and things that come up as one is traveling the path toward a goal, and even if one gets close, it is hard to finish.
We hear it in the context of sports all the time: You have to learn how to finish.
Just ask the Atlanta Falcons how hard it is to finish (just don’t take a sack and kick a field goal and you win the Super Bowl!) and to go those last few steps to achieve the goal.
There was a report in the International Business Times in 2014 that, over the past 20 years, 31 million Americans started studying for a college degree but did not finish. Of course, as the researchers indicated, there are many reasons for that, but it indicates how hard it is sometimes to achieve a goal. I wonder how many people are out there who are “just a few credits away” from a college degree, a master’s degree , or a Ph.D. I suspect that the number is significant. That is why, I believe, graduations are such an important celebration and why graduates should receive the credit they deserve. They kept going until they achieved their goal. They finished.
Terach, the father of Avraham, had a goal, “to go to the land of Canaan.” It was not easy. Whenever the Torah says, “and they left,” (as opposed to saying simply, “they went”) it is to remind us that leaving is significant and sometimes difficult. But he left his home, took his entire family and set out on a journey. The path was undoubtedly a difficult one and it certainly took great effort and great resolve. But he did not finish; he did not achieve his goal.
Terach, with his family, reached Charan and decided to settle there. He spent the rest of his life there and did not finish the trip; he did not achieve his goal. The task (in next week’s Torah portion) fell to the next generation, to his son Avraham — to set the goal for himself and to do whatever it took to achieve it, and reap the rewards of achieving the goal.
Setting goals is important. Navigating the path toward those goals is hard. Finishing is even harder. But we have to keep working (and teach our children to keep working), and not stop until we achieve those goals.
Shalom shalom. Chazak chazak. PJC
Rabbi Daniel Wasserman is rabbi of Shaare Torah Congregation, president of the Gesher HaChaim Jewish Burial Society and a member of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.