THE SECRET MOTIVE TO PASS LIFEâ€™S TESTS
Parashat Lech Lecha
We are all on this 120 year voyage through a world of tests and trials. One of Judaismâ€™s core beliefs is that we get rewarded for passing tests. Not always do we have access to that inner power to overcome the challenges and temptations that lie in our path. A client recently asked me for the secret to passing tests. At the time, I did not know what to answer. But in this weekâ€™s parasha, the Midrash drops us a hint.
×•×”××ž×Ÿ ×‘×”’ ×•×™×—×©×‘×” ×œ×• ×¦×“×§×” Avraham was tested by G-d ten times. But it was not for the mitzvah he did, or the sin he refrained from doing that he was rewarded. Rather, he was rewarded for his Emunah in Hashem. All that Avraham inherited in this world and the next, was only in the merit of his Emunah in Hashem. How do we know this? From the aforementioned passuk. And he had faith in G-d, and this was considered for him for a merit. Â (Mechilta Bâ€™shalah)
Every test has in it a factor of Emunah. If you really believe that G-d is watching, if you really believe that there is another world after this, if you really believe that everything we do has a price, punishment or reward, if you really believe that G-d doesnâ€™t miss a thought of a split second, if you really believe that G-d has the ability to reward you infinitely for your good deeds, if you really believe that G-d does not have to answer to anybody and is unstoppable, then the test that you are in takes on a new light. The problem is that most people do not factor this intensely real Emunah in G-d into the test, itself. A test is not for the test itself; i.e., did you cheat or did you not, did you look or did you not look, did you hear what was inappropriate or did you not, did you use your time wisely or did you not. No. That is not the test. The test is an underlying one: is G-d in your life, or is He not? When you have a crisis, is G-d part of the equation?
Religion is not merely about prayer and study, or adherence to the 613 commandments. Religion is much deeper than that. Someone recently taught this line that I canâ€™t get out of my head. â€œWhen you Daven, you are talking to G-d. When you learn Torah, G-d is talking to you.â€ Religion is about relationship with the Infinite.
I always wondered why our Rabbis teach that if you want to overcome the Yetzer Hara, you need to either pray or learn. Why? Because the Yetzer Hara is testing you to see if you really have G-d in your life. If you learn, you strengthen your awareness that G-d is around, because you have just heard what He has to say. If you just spoke to Him, you know He is wherever you decide to speak to Him. And once G-d is a central part of your decision, your thinking has more clarity to it. This is the inner secret for overcoming tests. Emunah.
I wondered why Avraham, who was the first person to discover G-d on his own, was tested so much with so many difficulties. I would have thought that a man like that, who was nice enough to discover G-d on his own and started the whole Jewish religion, should have been rewarded and never have had a difficulty in his life. But I believe that the answer is that Emunah is not a one-timer. It is a constant. Allow me to explain with a Mashal from the relationship of marriage.
There was once a couple who came to marriage counseling. The wife complained that the husband does not show enough affection; he never says to her, â€œI love youâ€. The husband defended himself. â€œI told you at the wedding that I love you. And if anything changes, I will let you know.â€
What does that man not understand about love? That love is not a state of being. Love is a verb. It is a constant activeness, one that needs to be constantly restated, repeated, and reaffirmed. Â Emunah, your awareness of and relationship with G-d, is very similar. It is a constant. And G-d wants our relationship. It is not a one-time thing. AND THIS IS THE REASON FOR ALL YOUR TESTS IN LIFE.
He does not need our prayers to save us in hard times, rather he brings us hard times in order for us to pray. Because G-d wants you to constantly, actively, love Him. You express this, each test you pass that G-d puts in your life journey.
This Mechilta teaches us that the reward is for the relationship, for the Emunah. So the next time you find yourself in front of a test, teachers of change teach you to decelerate (antonym of accelerate). Slow down, donâ€™t move. Give yourself five minutes before you inch towards your temptation. Give yourself a chance, to pray to G-d that you wonâ€™t fall. Try to get yourself involved in some words of Torah. Try to shed another sliver of your awareness of G-d onto your decision of what your next move is going to be.