Parshat Lech Lecha Vol.11 No.7
Date of issue: 10 Cheshvan 5762 -- October 27, 2001
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The Nature of Tests
by Mr. Chaim Sussman
In Pirkei Avot, Perek 5 Mishna 3 it says that Hashem gave ten tests to Avraham. Rashi and Rambam argue as to what some of these tests are. Unlike Rambam who says that Avraham being asked to leave his homeland was the first test, Rashi says that the first two tests involved Avraham first hiding from Nimrod who wanted to kill him and then being thrown into the burning furnace by Nimrod. In these two cases, the test lies in Avraham defending his monotheistic beliefs, knowing fully that he would face repercussions from the polytheistic king.
It would seem illogical that if the first test is such a difficult trial, then the second one should be easier. One would think that Avraham being asked to move away is certainly significantly easier than putting his life in danger by defending Hashem. After all, people often pick up and move for economic reasons, and Avraham had already just moved from Ur Kasdim. Hashem had even assured him that he would have children, wealth and honor in his new home as 14:2 says Veasecha Lagoi Gadol Vaevarechicha Shimecha.
Before we answer that question, let us discuss briefly what the purposes of tests are. After all, Hashem knows how people will respond. According to the Ramban the tests are for the benefit of the individual being tested. By passing these tests, one has translated his potential in action, and has elevated himself to a spiritual level. In addition, by passing the tests, the reward will be tremendous.
Now we will get back to the question: why was Avraham's test of leaving his homeland more difficult than the earlier tests? Rabbi Moshe Feinstein says that the big difference between these tests is that one was an intellectual test, while the other was emotional. It was easy for Avraham to defend Hashem and monotheism in Ohr Kisadim, because it made compete sense on an intellectual level. On the other hand at the beginning of our Parsha, Avraham is being asked to do something that intellectually and logically he cannot understand. He is being asked to leave his old father and his home. This is an emotional test, and clearly harder for Avraham than the previous ones.
In these difficult times, it is nearly impossible to emotionally comprehend why such terrible things are happening. But like Avraham, we must have faith in Hashem that there is a reason for the madness that we cannot logically understand.
by Jonathan Weinstein
After the war of the four kings, Avram has a divine dream in which Hashem told him, "Do not fear. I will be your shield and protector. Your reward shall be very great." Why did Hashem tell Avram not to be afraid? This would make sense if Hashem told him this as encouragement before the war. However, Hashem told this to Avram after the war, which Avram had already won.
There are a few reasons why Avram was afraid. During the war of the four kings, Avram killed many people. Though they were mostly Reshaim, Avram was concerned that maybe Tzaddikim were killed in the war as well. There is a general rule, "When authority is given to the Destroyer, it does not distinguish between the Tzaddikim and the Reshaim." Tzaddikim could die just as easily as the Reshaim. Avram was afraid that he would be punished for killing Tzaddikim. The Tzaddikim who fought in the war were probably forced to fight against their will. There is a law that a Jew cannot murder anybody even if his life is in danger. If a Tzaddik kills someone instead of getting killed himself, then only Hashem could kill him. This is why Avram was afraid. Avram thought he might have killed someone who he wasn't supposed to kill.
There are some other reasons why Avram was afraid. Avram thought that the Reshaim may have had righteous children or that they may have converted to Judaism. So Avram was concerned about killing these people. Also, Avram thought that the families of those he killed would kill him and he would not be able to rely on a miracle to save him. Another reason is that Avram was uncomfortable of becoming rich through the Reshaim's wealth. Finally, Avram feared that Shem (Ben Noach) would curse him for killing the people of the four kings because many of them were Shem's descendents. Hashem tells Avram that he should not fear because He will protect him and make his reward great.
Before this vision that Avram received, he got visions only at night, but now he gets them during the day. There are ten words to describe Nevuah. The first two, which are the highest levels of Nevuah, are Chizon (vision) and Dibor (speech). The Torah says, "God's word came to Avram in a vision." We see that the two highest levels of Nevuah are used here. This Nevuah experience was so great that Avram was afraid of it. Therefore, Hashem said to him not to be afraid. Hashem reassures Avram with a story. A man goes into the royal garden and saw a pile of thorns. He took them to use them to make a fire. As he was coming out of the gate, he saw the king coming and hid in order that he would not be punished for stealing from him. The king said to the man that he does not have to be afraid because he helped the king by removing the thorns. The king would have hired someone to do that so the man helped him out. The king told him that just like the man wanted to benefit himself by taking the thorns he gave benefit to the king and for that, the king will reward him.
Hashem tells Avram that the men were like thorns. They would not do much good for anyone so it was good that Avram killed them. For this, Avram would not be punished and he will even get a great reward. Hashem gave Avram a reward because of the Mitzva; "You shall destroy evil from your midst. (Devarim 13:1)."
Spread the Wealth
by Willie Roth
In this week's Parsha, Parshat Lech Lecha Hashem tells Avraham Lech Lecha Miartzecha Umimoladitecha, "Go from your land and from your birthplace." Rav Berechya asks what Avraham was compared to. He answers that he was compared to a sweet smelling fragrance that stays in the corner of a room and does not spread. However, once it is shaken it spreads to the rest of the room. Hashem told Avraham, that he had a lot of good deeds and Mitzvot. All he had to do was shake himself from place to place. If he spread his good deeds, then "I [Hashem] will make you [Avraham] in to a great nation and will bless you." Only after he shared his good deeds and kindness with everyone else would he get his reward.
Avraham is well known for Hachnasat Orchim, the Mitzva of welcoming guests. We see in the Torah how Avraham ran to greet and welcome three total strangers even when he was still recovering from his Brit Milah. If these three strangers were actual people and not Malachim they would see how Avraham, whom they did not know, came rushing to them. Then they would be nice to a different stranger. They might see and help him, just as Avraham had helped them. We can clearly see what effect Avraham's deeds would have had on other people if they had spread around. However, if Avraham just stays "in the corner," and does not spread his good Midot, then no one would be able to benefit from him. This is the greatness of Avraham. He allows other people to act like him and be like him. As a result of this, Hashem blesses him.
In our days, we must strive to be like Avraham. We have to be able to spread our good Midot with other people who are lacking. We have to reach out to other people who are not as observant. This is known as Kiruv, outreach. Many people's lives have changed because of it. Whether it is NCSY, Lubavitch, or any other organization, it is very important to help other people out. It is said that if every Jew keeps two Shabbatot then Mashiach will come. However, before two comes one. We should start getting people involved. Then they will keep every Shabbat, not just two. If we can do this, then we will be rewarded as greatly as Avraham, and hopefully bring the Mashiach.
What is the Test?
by Josh Berger
It says in this week's Parsha, Parshat Lech Lecha, "And Hashem said to Avram 'Go from your homeland'." Rashi learns from the words "Lech Lecha" that Hashem promised Avram that it would be for his benefit to go to the land that He would show him. As the Pasuk itself says "I will make you into a great nation."
Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz from Frankfurt, the author of the Haflaah, asks the following question on this Rashi. This command of Lech Lecha is counted among the ten tests that Avraham was given by Hashem. If Hashem had in fact promised that Avraham's trip would not entail any loss to him but would be to his benefit, what was the challenge of the test?
Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz answers that when the Pasuk tells us of Avram's fulfillment of Hashem's command it says "Vayelech Avram Kaasher Diber Eilav Hashem." We learn from here that Avram's journey was not made for his own benefit but rather to fulfill Hashem's commandment. Avram was tested at this time as to the way that he fulfilled the command of Hashem. Avram had a choice. He could either go with the intent of receiving the reward that Hashem promised him if he would go, or he could go solely to fulfill the commandment of Hashem, disregarding the material benefit that Hashem had promised.
Therefore the Pasuk testifies that Avraham went, "Kaasher Diber Eilav Hashem," and his Kavana was not to receive any personal benefit. Thus this journey was indeed one of the ten tests that Avraham was given. He was therefore worthy of the heavenly mission that was bestowed upon him.
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