God said to Avram, “Go from your land, your birthplace, and your father’s
house, to the land which I will show you.” (Bereishis 12:1)
Like a main star who doesn’t enter the play for the first time until a later
scene, Avraham takes over the show in the third act. Even though he was
already 48 years old at the time of the Tower of Bavel in last week’s
parshah, we hear nothing about him until the end of the parshah, and then,
only in passing.
This is not because Avraham’s life was insignificant until this week’s
parshah. On the contrary, he had already undergone, and passed, two of his
destined 10 tests. Rather, it is because history had been insignificant
until this time, until, that is, Avraham’s 52nd year, when the world turned
2,000 years old.
The Talmud states:
History is divided into three periods of 2,000 years each: 2,000 years of
Tohu, 2,000 years of Torah, and 2,000 years of the Heels of Moshiach.
Hence, it wasn’t until Year 2000 from Creation that history was even ready
for an Avraham Avinu. On a personal level, he was becoming who he was
becoming anyhow, and influencing who he was able to influence along the way.
However, he had also met with tremendous resistance along his spiritual
journey, no matter how logical his arguments for a single God had been.
Success as life constantly proves, is a matter of two things, an idea, and
the time in which it is launched. And, often what counts the most is the
time period itself, because as Hitler, ysv’z, showed history, bad ideas can
also take off if the world in which they are launched is ripe to follow them.
This is what the Talmud means when it says:
Anyone who pushes off the moment will be pushed off by the moment.
However, anyone who is pushed off because of the moment, the moment will be
pushed off for him. (Brochos 64a)
This means that even good ideas can fail if they occur at the wrong time. As
Shlomo HaMelech wrote:
Everything has an appointed season, and there is a time for every matter
under the heaven. A time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant
and a time to uproot that which is planted. A time to kill and a time to
heal; a time to break and a time to build. A time to weep and a time to
laugh; a time of wailing and a time of dancing. A time to cast stones and a
time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from
embracing. A time to seek and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to
cast away. A time to rend and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time
to speak. A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for
peace. What profit has the one who works in that which he toils? (Koheles
It’s a good question. If coming up with a good idea is not enough to
succeed, because God’s Master Plan is the overriding factor in such success,
then why bother invest the time and energy in any kind of project that
requires any kind of personal sacrifice? Even Avraham came close to going
down with his spiritual ship:
Rav Shmuel ben Rebi Yitzchak said, “Avraham would not have been saved from
the furnace of fire had it not been for the merit of his future grandson,
Ya’akov. A parable explains this: once a man was brought before the Sultan
to be judged, who subsequently ruled that the man should be burned to death.
However, by way of astrology, it was revealed to the Sultan that in the
future, the man, should he not be killed, would father a daughter who would
one day marry the king. The Sultan said, ‘It is worth saving this man’s
life for the daughter that will one day marry the king!’ Thus Avraham was
judged to be burned in Ur Kasdim, and when it was revealed before God that
in the future, Avraham would have a descendant Ya’akov, God said, ‘It is
worth saving Avraham in the merit of Ya’akov!’ ” (Bereishis Rabbah 63:2)
First of all, there are a few important, though succinct, things to recall.
The first is:
This world is like a corridor before the World-to-Come. Rectify yourself
in the corridor in order to be able to enter the Banquet Hall. (Pirkei Avos
Let’s say Avraham Avinu would have died that day in Ur Kasdim for having
stuck with God until the very end, what would the impact have been? For
Avraham himself, it would have meant reaching the highest levels of eternal
life, as if he had lived a perfect life until the end without actually
having lived it. He would have gone to where it only gets better.
Those who would have survived him would have fared far worse, being held
responsible for the murder of an innocent and righteous person. More
importantly, they would have lost a great teacher who would have guided them
to higher spiritual plateaus from which it would have been more likely that
they pass from this world to the eternal one, as opposed to spiritual oblivion.
From this point of view, leaving early, even through fire, might seem like
the better way.
It also says:
According to the effort is the reward. (Pirkei Avos 5:26)
Notice how it says nothing about one’s level of success in this world.
Rather, the mishnah speaks of reward, which, as the Talmud states, is
something for the next world, not this one (Avodah Zarah 3a). A person can
see little, or even no results, from his effort to spiritually impact the
world in a positive way during his lifetime. Even more difficult is that he
may, and often does, watch others come along later and succeed with his
ideas in ways that he could not.
Historically, many originators of great ideas have gone to the grave without
realizing success, virtual nobodies in the eyes of the people who benefit
from their accomplishments after they are long gone. However, from Heaven’s
point of view, every time someone accomplishes anything through history
based upon the original person’s efforts, good or bad, he is accredited for
the good or bad that results, and famous for either one where it counts the
And finally for now, there is the following principle as well:
Rebi Shimon of Shikmona says: Moshe Rabbeinu knew that the daughters of
Tzelofchad were to inherit, but he did not know whether or not they were to
take the portion of the first born son. It was fitting that the section of
the laws of inheritance should have been written through Moshe, but the
daughters of Tzelofchad merited it, and it was written through them. Moshe
furthermore, knew that the man who gathered sticks was to he put to death,
as it says, “Anyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death” (Shemos
31:14), but he did not know by which death. It was fitting that the section
of the man who gathered sticks should have been written through Moshe, but
the gatherer had brought guilt upon himself and it was written through him.
This teaches you that merit is brought about by means of the meritorious and
punishment for guilt by means of the guilty. (Bava Basra 119b)
History is also a function of match-making. Though a person may often not
get a chance to succeed in the eyes of others with his successful idea,
sometimes the time is right, and he succeeds beyond his wildest dreams. The
starting point, however, is being available for that right time, a moment in
time that we can’t necessarily predict.
The best we can do is continue to develop ourselves as people worthy of
merit, so that when God’s Master Plan requires such a person, our resume
will be on top of the stack.