Parasha

Tests: The Essence of Judaism

Rabbi Yishai Rabi

The parasha begins this week with the beginning of our foundation. If you were to write the Bible, how would you start off the beginning of the Jewish People’s foundation? Our Parasha goes through some beginning events and challenges. The first challenge is to Go”: ‘Go’ from your home town, ‘Go’ when there is famine, ‘Go’ when you don’t get along with your family (ie. Lot). The Torah continues with the stories of Avram saving Lot, marrying Hagar, the birth of Yishmael, and finally Hagar running away and the Brit Mila. Why are these apparently random and insignificant events the beginning of the Jewish Nation’s foundation?

Avraham Avinu had to go through ten tests. Tests are not just struggles along the way that we have to put up with. Tests are central to what we as a nation are all about.

The first lesson is to Go and follow Hashem even when it’s not easy. Avraham was to listen to Hashem and come to the Holy Land, and it was not easy. Then he had to ‘go’ again. The main point is that we must live with Mesirat Nefesh (Self Sacrifice). We cannot expect that when we follow in the ways of Hashem that everything will always go smoothly. We are in Olam Hazeh and we have one purpose: to earn eternity and to get closer and closer to Hashem. Everything in this world is nothing but a test. A test finds out if one is able to reach higher. Every situation we run into is another opportunity to prove ourselves and get closer to Hashem. This is the essence of Judaism.

When a convert wants to join Klal Yisrael, we make sure he is well aware of the struggles of the Jews throughout the generation, including the anti-Semitism and persecution. We also must teach him the strictest as well as the simplest Halachot. The Commentators ask: We understand that we have to teach him the strict laws, but why the easy laws? Staying with our theme, then answer is that Judaism is all about the daily struggles. What might look like simple laws is really a daily challenge to follow Hashem. Laws of how to eat, dress, conduct business, and talk are all daily challenges for a Jew to overcome. They might be simple laws, but they are what separate someone who wants to follow Hashem from the rest. Everything in our lives is an opportunity to grow and requires thought. Every little thing in our life, even how to dress and make a business deal, has a Torah answer and perspective. Nothing is outside of the realm of serving Hashem. Everything in our life is a test from Hashem. We have endless challenges, but we should look at it as endless opportunities. Opportunities to prove ourselves, master life, and reach closer to Hashem.

Lech Lecha. Leave the easy, cozy world and come to face the challenges of Olam Hazeh. This is what being a Jew is all about. Our goal is to be complete in all areas of life. And although its hard work, the rewards are so rich and includes the wealth of Eternity.

Shabbat Shalom!

(Inspired by R’ Yitzchak Berkovitz)

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