<I>Lech Lecha</I>: The Trials of Avraham

struggle, or trial, makes one realize one's potential. It is a positive, not a negative, experience. Without it, one would never realize what inner strength one has. G-d, our Creator, sends us these trials in order to reveal our strength.

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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
It is no simple matter to translate one's potential into action. It involves a struggle between opposing forces. This is the definition of "nisayon" - a trial. It is a situation in which one acts " in spite of" and not "because of". It is possible to succeed or to fail. Nothing is certain; it all depends on the person.

No trial is too much for the person faced with it. We must realize that G-d never puts us in any situation that we cannot possibly handle. We must have faith in Him and appreciate that He does not wish us to fail. His goal is to help Man progress and uplift himself. That is why He puts us into situations in which we must use all of our hidden potential. As a result, we are uplifted (see Midrash Raba, 55:2; HaAmek Davar, Breishit 22:1). This is similar to a student who must strain his brain to solve the exercises he is given. Doing them makes him understand what he has learned, while mere theoretical study alone without a practical application would not suffice. Not always is it easy to do the exercises, but it is essential. The same may be said about life's tribulations. If G-d puts someone in a difficult situation, it is a sign that he is capable of coping with it. G-d is not trying to trip us up, but rather to uplift us.

Man goes through all kinds of difficulties: he's cold, he's hot, he's broke, he's tired, he's disgusted and in despair. Nevertheless, he is expected to overcome his despair. It's no great feat to win when you are not in despair. The trick is to be full of hope while you are disheartened. A disheartening situation is a wonderful opportunity, and if one looks at it in that light, he will no longer despair.

There are three approaches to difficulty. One approach says, "No problem; it's okay." Our sages called this "the drunk's approach", for to a drunk, the whole world seems flat (see Yoma 75). Everything is straight, flat, okay - no problems. The second approach says that everything is wrong, the problems are too great, there is no way they can be overcome; it's a lost cause. The third approach, in contrast, does not dispute or ignore the difficulties, but chooses to fight and to overcome.

A struggle, or trial, makes one realize one's potential. It is a positive, not a negative, experience. Without it, one would never realize what inner strength one has. G-d, our Creator, sends us these trials in order to reveal our strength. A trial need not dishearten us. On the contrary, it is a challenge. We are like children trying to eat the noodles in the soup with a straw. We could have done things more simply and used a spoon, but it's boring to eat soup with a spoon every day. When we succeed in meeting a challenge, we are overcome with joy. Just as one should try to channel a child's energy, but not dampen his spirits, so must we make use of life's tribulations and of our abilities to cope in order to uplift ourselves spiritually.

G-d created the world as a vehicle whereby He would reveal Himself. Man was created in the image of G-d, and his worth is revealed through overcoming trials and tribulations. One explanation of the word nisayon relates it to nes - a flag (Midrash Raba 55:1), which is waved in order to be seen far and wide.

Avraham Avinu passed all the tests. From his first encounter with G-d - "Go from your land and your birthplace and your father's house to the land which I shall show you." (Genesis 12:1) - through his travels throughout the Land of Israel and the final test of the Akeida, he is always on the move. He moves up the rungs of the spiritual ladder: "Talmidei Chachamim have no rest, not in this world nor in the world to come." (Brachot 64) They go from one struggle to the next. Their lives are full of conflict, and this is how they progress higher and higher, from one level to the next, until they reach the top.

[Translated by Bracha Slae.]


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