Parshas Lech Lecha: Everything in Life is a Test
There once was a very wealthy, charitable, and highly respected man who would travel once a year to see his rebbe and get his blessing. Every year on that Shabbos, everyone would treat him with the utmost respect and he would always get the most honored aliyah in the Shabbat service. However, he was not just treated with respect because he was such a giving man; he was also treated with respect because people were a bit afraid of him, for he had the reputation of having a very bad temper.
One year, he went to his rebbe and said, “Rebbe, I have a problem and I need help. I have a problem with anger, and I cannot control my temper.” “There is no problem,” his rebbe replied. “But Rebbe,” he asked, “isn’t it considered very bad under Torah law to be angry? And I am always getting angry.” “It is not a problem,” his rebbe said again. So, confused though he was, the man left his audience with the rebbe and trusted in his words.
After he left, the rebbe called in the gabbai of the shul and told him that instead of his usual honor, this man should receive the “honor” of tying the cover on the Torah scroll, something that children usually did. The gabbai was afraid and knew that the man would be very angry, so he thought he had better warn him. He called him in and told him what the rebbe had said was to happen during the Shabbat service.
During the Shabbat service, everyone in the shul gasped when this prestigious man was passed over during the aliyot. They all looked at him, expecting him to be furious, and were surprised to see him smiling serenely. And when he was given the “honor” of tying up the Torah, everyone looked to him again, expecting him to be insulted, but he did his job with a smile. Everyone was very surprised.
After the service, the rebbe came over and asked him how it was he managed not to get angry over this slight. “Well, Rebbe,” the man replied, “I knew you were just testing me!” “Ah,” said the rebbe, “so you see that your anger is not a problem, for everything in life is just a test!”
In this week’s parsha, we see some of the many tests given by G-d to Avraham. The tests begin with him being told to leave his home, family, and friends, and to go into the unknown with no destination named, not an easy feat for an old man! And when he finally does arrive in Canaan, he is beset by famine. The Egyptians capture his wife, Sarah, and then Avraham has to go to war against several kings. And the list continues on. Yet, Avraham never wavered in his steadfast obedience to Hashem. He did not lose heart. He was not depressed. He did everything cheerfully.
So, too, is every difficulty in our lives a test. We do not have to be a righteous tzaddik or a wealthy patron for G-d to care about us. Just as a parent loves his/her poor child as much as his/her wealthy one, G-d loves each and every one of us, no matter what our faults may be. And just as we challenge our own children to broaden their horizons and we give them opportunities to show how they have grown, we too are given tests by Hashem, in order to help us demonstrate our growth. So this week, if temptation or difficulty comes your way, rise to the challenge. Meet it head-on, with a smile. Remember, it’s only a test!
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