Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller
In Parshas Lech Lecha, the Torah begins to tell us about Avrohom Avinu and his accomplishments. This information is meant to inspire us and to help us aspire to what we need to do as His children who invoke His name and His merit on a daily basis. A big focus in the account of Avrohom’s life is the 10 nisyonos, tests, which Avrohom Avinu endured and prevailed during his lifetime.
It is interesting that although all of the Patriarchs were faced with adversity, it is only Avrohom’s that are described as nisyonos-tests. Perhaps the answer lies in the proper definition of a nisoyon. Rashi relates it to the word nes-a banner. Hashem sends people challenges and trials all the time for several different purposes. One of them is to make a person’s righteousness conspicuous and visible like a banner. In this understanding the trial is not a test since Hashem knows this person is righteous; he simply wants it to be obvious to all. Avrohom Avinu was chosen by Hashem to found a Chosen People who will have special status throughout human history. Hashem wants the world to understand why it is Avrohom and no one else that was chosen. Once the world sees the unwavering loyalty and sacrifice of this founding father, it all becomes clear.
The Ramban has a different understanding of the term nisayon. He explains that it is indeed a test, but the intention is not for Hashem to gather information. It is so that the tzaddik actualizes all of the potential that he has. This way he can be rewarded and he will understand himself better. This will allow him to reach even greater heights in his love and service of Hashem. According to this, we might suggest that Avrohom Avinu’s tests were a gift to him. He had taken a stand against the entire world and Hashem wanted to give him a vote of confidence and show him how strong he is. When Avrohom overcame these challenges, it encouraged him and gave him more strength to continue his career of opposing idolatry and all of its attendant problems.
We live in tumultuous times and many are feeling very challenged. It is helpful to remember that adversity is often a vote of confidence from Hashem to help us realize our own innate abilities and strength. When we view it in this way, we will be empowered to rise to the challenge and overcome it with flying colors.