Torah thought forFriday 10 Cheshvan 5783 November 4 2022

Parashat Lech Lecha

(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

A Test is Not Necessarily Considered Challenging Based on the Severity of it, But Rather Determined by the Lack of Clarity it Presents us With

It states in the week’s Parashah, “Hashem said to Avraham, ‘Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.’” (Bereishit 12:1).

Our chachamim said (Avot 5:3), “Avraham Avinu a”h was tested with ten tests and withstood them all. To make known how great was Avraham Avinu’s a”h love.”

Rashi explains (quoted in the commentary Tosafot Yom Tov), “and withstood them all” – “that he didn’t question Hashem’s attributes”. Meaning, that the unique quality of Avraham was that not only did he withstand the actual test, but that Hashem commanded him to do things that appeared illogical. Avraham didn’t think even for a moment, what is going on here? What is the solution? Rather he accepted the Creator’s mitzvah entirely and with a complete heart.

What are the ten test that Avraham was tested in? Rabbeinu Rambam enumerates the first test, “Hashem said to Avraham, ‘Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.’” This appears surprising for it is known that prior to Avraham being testing with this awesome test, that King Nimrod threw him into a fiery furnace because he denied idolatry. If so, why does Rambam not count this test as the first test?!

The answer to this is, that for someone who believes in Hashem, there is no test with matters which are completely clear. We believe in Hashem and when a person is faced with a test, to die or to deny Hashem, the test isn’t so great! We have seen this so many times throughout the generations, men, women and children who gave their lives and died for their faith. This isn’t such a great test! It is self-sacrifice! So the test isn’t so great. However, where is truly the greatest test? When things aren’t clear. Where there is deliberation, wrestling and coping with the decision!

Therefore the test “Go away from your land”, was certainly a great test. Not siply the fact that Avraham listen to Hashem, for sure it was clear that he had to listen to Hashem’s voice, for who of us would hear a clear instruction from Hashem and not listen to his voice? Rather the greatness was that Avraham didn’t have even a moment’s doubt. For he had established a huge teshuva organisation in Charan. He had taught an enormous amount of people and spread everywhere belief in Hashem. He had pupils who were dependent on him and now he will have to forsake everything?! A simple thought could have passed through Avraham’s mind, it would make more sense that I remain here! This was a great test and Avraham showed restraint, he had complete belief.

This may be illustrated as follows. If for example a man will come with the following offer, take 500 shekalim and tell me lashon hara about so and so! For sure he will reject him outright, it is forbidden to speak lashon hara! However, if without such an obvious suggestion such as this he approaches him and attempts to coax him about that lashon hara, there are many that will stumble in the prohibition of lashon hara! We learn from this that the main test is when matters are unclear!

The Gaon, the Tzaddik, Rav Yaakov Galinski zt”l explained that the words of the Gaon Rav Chaim Volozhin z”l (1749-1821) are well known, that’s why they said, with ten tests Avraham “Avinu” was tested, they intentionally coined him with the title “Avinu”, for with his stamina in each and every test he engendered in us, his descendants, the ability and strength to withstand, and not to question Hashem’s mitzvah. To believe that everything that happens in our lives is all from Hashem from Heaven and everything is for the better.

It is related in the Talmud (Berachot 60a) that Rabbi Akivah was travelling and reached a village. He requested to stay the night, but they refused. He said, “Everything that Hashem does is for the best!”

He went and slept in the wilderness. He had a rooster, donkey and a lamp. A wind came and blew out the lamp. A cat ate the rooster, and a lion ate the donkey. Rabbi Akivah said, “Everything that Hashem does is all for the best”.

That night came companies of enemy soldiers came and took the villagers hostage. Rabbi Akivah said, “Didn’t I say that everything that Hashem does is all for the best? For if the lamp had been lit, the donkey braying and the roster crowing, they would have taken me captive too!”

A person must know that he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know, others don’t know, only Hashem knows!

They tell a story. The priest in Prague incited the king against the Jews and obtained the king’s consent that they have a public debate on the bridge above the river. If the priest wins, they shall throw the Jew into the gushing water. And if the Jew is victorious, they will throw the priest in. The king agreed and the scene was set.

A Jewish wagon driver put himself forwards as the Jewish representative in the debate. They said to him, “Who are you anyway. A simple wagon driver, who will represent the Jews?” He replied, “There are many wagon drivers and if they throw me in, this isn’t a great tragedy, but a rav, we only have one rav, therefore it is appropriate that I go.” They agreed.

On the day of the debate the priest and the wagon driver appeared. From the outset the king and his minister placed the referee, ordering that if he sees one of the sides cannot answer his fellow, immediately they shall throw him into the river and they must not wait even one moment so that he not escape.

The priest stood and contemptuously said, “Kike, you ask first!” The wagon driver arose and asked the priest, “Tell me priest, what do the Hebrew words mean ‘lo yadati pirusho’?” The priest responded in Czech (translating into English as), “I don’t know the explanation!” The referee heard this and immediately got up, lifted the priest, and threw him in the water to his death!

The Jews approached the wagon driver and carried him on their shoulders. The rav was interested, “How did you think to ask such a wise question?”

The wagon driver replied. “Very simple! I am a simple Jew who studies Chumash and Rashi in Yiddish. I arrived at the words of Rashi in Vayikra who writes ‘lo yadati pirusho’, I looked in the translation and it is explained as meaning ‘I don’t know the explanation’. I said to myself, if the wise translator doesn’t know the explanation, will the priest know?...” (Vehigad’ta, Vayikra).

One must know that Hashem turns events, He gives the Torah. Just as we understand our Holy Torah, which is deeper than the sea, likewise we must believe and know that what happens in life is deeper and more tangled. But all is for the best. We are happy that we are children cared for, guided and looked after by our Father in Heaven “He Who set our soul in life and did not allow our foot to falter” [Tehillim 66:9].

Shabbat Shalom!