Lech Lecha - An Uplifting Experience
There is a Mishna in Pirkei Avos (Chapters of the Fathers) which teaches us
that Abraham underwent ten tests. Several of them can be found in this
week's parsha. The question is, what is the purpose of G-d testing anyone?
He certainly already knows what the results will be, so why put anyone
through the trouble?
The question is really based on a false assumption. The assumption
is that a test is merely an evaluation. We're used to school, and grades,
and being evaluated by means of a test. In today's society, this is the sole
purpose of a test; judgement.
In Hebrew, the word for test is "nesayon". It is related to the word
"nes" which translates as banner, and also miracle. By understanding this
relationship, one can derive a better understanding of the purpose of a
test. A miracle is very often a public manifestation of divine power. A
banner is held high for all to see. A "NESayon" is designed as a
prescription for a person to elevate him/herself. It is meant to cause one
to flex his/her spiritual muscles and raise him/herself up.
As a teacher, my intentions in testing are twofold. The first is
evaluation. It evaluates how the students are doing in understanding the
material, and how the teacher is doing in teaching it. The second purpose is
to motivate my students to study well, and achieve the best understanding
possible of the material. I want them to study so well that they will always
remember what they learned. Many students study only for the test, and
immediately afterwards forget most of what they learned. Contrary to this I
want the study to be of lasting value, and I tell my students this.
When G-d tested Abraham the purpose was to raise him up to a higher
level; to attain levels of accomplishment which he had not done previously.
Each of the ten tests brought him to a higher level, and in a way, made him
a different person with a greater closeness to G-d.
We are all Abrahams in our own way. We all find ourselves in
numerous tests each day. Each time, we have an opportunity to elevate
ourselves, and make spiritual aquisitions which manifest themselves in our
A woman became a widow years ago in Poland. With her husband went
their source of livelihood. Among the few things he left were his boots. Her
nine children had no shoes. During the winter she would take her children to
cheder (Jewish School) one at a time in that pair of boots. She would remove
the boots from the child upon his arrival at cheder, and go home and let the
next child wear them, until they had all arrived. At the end of the day she
would go through the entire routine once again. This was the routine every
day! Here is a woman who was able to translate vision into action. This is a
woman with great perserverance. This is heroism on a daily basis. This is
the message she gave to her children about the importance of learning.
Great people view difficulties as challenges for growth. Through
tests and challenges we raise ourselves up to new levels of attainment. This
is the lesson we learn from Abraham our forefather.
Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.