Rabbi Yonah Burr
The Trials of Avraham
This week’s parsha, parsha Lech Lecha, introduces us to some of the fundamentals of Yiddishkeit. The medrash teaches us that Avram ‘rediscovers’ Hashem, and Hashem establishes the Jewish Nation through him. Indeed, the Ramban tells us that Avram was actually laying the groundwork of our future, ‘paving the way’ for his descendants to prevail, and reach their potential. Avram went down to Egypt, was persecuted, and left with great wealth, so too, his descendants will go down to Egypt, be enslaved, and finally be redeemed and leave with great wealth. Avram fought against the four kings and won, so too we, will endure the four exiles and will eventually be redeemed. Avram saw the vision of the ‘covenant of the parts’ and saw the future of the Jewish People. And Avram even secured a promise from Hashem that He will ultimately give us Eretz Yisroel, in the merit of the korbonos.
In order for Avram to merit all of this, he needed to be tested; chazal identify ten different tests, and although there are different interpretations of what they exactly were, all of the trials and travails that Avram endured were certainly tests and challenges that he needed to overcome.
Why does Hashem need to test Avram? Doesn’t Hashem know the outcome from the start? Surely Hashem knows that Avram will pass with flying colors, and there should be no need to even test.
The Chizkuni, (next week’s parsha introducing the Akeida) explains, that the purpose of the tests is to dispel any criticism that the world might have; ‘why does Hashem favor Avraham or the Jewish people, what did they do to deserve this? Why are they treated differently than the rest of the world?’ Hashem therefore gives Avram opportunities to prove himself, so that later generations can point to his accomplishments, and explain our spiritual wealth.
The Ramban, there, explains differently. Of course, Hashem knows the outcome, and that Avraham would pass any test- but in the meantime, that fact is mere unfulfilled potential. Avraham would definitely pass, if he would be tested, but if it doesn’t actually happen, it is dormant and not actualized. Hashem gives Avraham the test, so that Avraham can use this potential and bring it to fulfillment, thereby transforming himself, and making himself better. He will now be rewarded for his accomplishments, rather than merely for the thoughts of his heart.
Indeed, after Avram passes these tests, his name is enlarged- Avraham- reflecting his greater influence and impact, being the ‘father of all nations’. Avraham raised himself up, by realizing his potential, and becoming greater.
These lessons have relevance to us as well; we all go through tests, and often wonder why these things always happen to us.
Problems thrown our way should be looked at as challenges, or opportunities, for us to overcome.
And the reasons are the same; perhaps Hashem is giving us a challenge in order to be an example to others, to show it is possible to prevail, and to be able to encourage them. Or perhaps Hashem is giving us an opportunity to bring out our potential, and grow in breadth and depth.
Hashem only gives us tests we can pass, and let’s show Him we can do it!
Have a wonderful Shabbos.