The True Test of Emunah by Rabbi Herschel Solnica zt'l


            The first Rashi in this week's Parsha teaches us that Avram's leaving his home and his environment was for his blessing and for his benefit.  Rashi then outlines the blessings that are inherent in the words ואעשך לגוי גדול ואברכך ואגדלה שמך וגו' .  This Rashi appears to be difficult in light of the Mishnah in Avot (פרק ה משנה ג) which tells us that Avram endured and succeeded in ten tests, and the commentaries include Lech Lecha as one of the tests (see Rashi and Ramban).  How could this be a test of emunah in Hashem and devotion to Hashem if all of these wonderful assurances were made to Avram when the command of Lech Lecha was issued?

            It appears that here lies a very subtle and important lesson.  When Rashi states להנאתך ולטובתך, this is not what Hashem stated or guaranteed to Avram.  It is the way Avram viewed the commandment to leave his father's home.  His commitment to Judaism was a positive one.  He knew that all God asks of him is surely להנאתך ולטובתך.  It could not be any other way.  Avram had no doubts that Hashem would lead him to the enlargement of his family, and bring great blessing to him.

            Too often we find ourselves questioning Hashem and His judgement because we are not positive enough in our emunah in Him.  Rabbi Akiva, on the other hand, was an example of positive Judaism.  The Gemara in Makkot (דף כד:) tells us that when a group of rabbis approached הר הבית, the Temple Mount, and saw foxes running about, they began to cry.  However, Rabbi Akiva laughed.  When they asked how he could laugh at this sight of such a tragedy, Rabbi Akiva responded that now that the prophet's warning of such terrible occurrences came true, the prophecy of salvation, ישועה, would surely come soon.

            Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik explains in a similar manner the Mishna in יומא פה: which states that Rabbi Akiva encouraged the Jewish people by relating how fortunate they are that G-d purifies the Jewish people on Yom Kippur.  Rabbi Soloveitchik explains that Rabbi Akiva was addressing the Jewish people after the destruction of the בית המקדש.  The Jews were depressed that they did not have the privilege of having the beautiful עבודת יום הכפורים performed in the בית המקדש any longer.  They wondered how Yom Kippur could take place without the עבודה.  Instead, רבי עקיבא refocused the Jewish people away from the negative to the positive.  He taught that even without the בית המקדש we can still bask in God's glow on Yom Kippur when He purifies us from our sins.  Rabbi Akiva always saw the cup half full rather than half empty.  The greatest quality we can reach is to realize כל מה דעביד רחמנא לטב עבידברכות ס:( ), all that God does for us is for our benefit.

            In order to be a better person, a finer Rabbi, a more successful teacher, or a kinder parent, one must find a ray of hope in every person, event and circumstance.

            One must first find inner satisfaction in order to be a role model for others.  The words לך לך surely cry out, Avram go! find yourself!  Seek inner satisfaction to do God's wish.  Then and only then can you and Sarai be מקרב others to understand that Hashem is one and the only master of the universe.

            This was surely a major test of Avram's belief in Hashem, but it was a test that underscored that everything is להנאתך ולטבתך.

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