I guess we all do our share of complaining. After all, life is tough.
Life is all too often stressful, aggravating, annoying…and trying. It is demanding
and strenuous, at times even onerous and troublesome. Sometimes it involves actual
suffering, anguish, and misfortune. Frequently we wonder where it is all coming
from, if Hashem is indeed actually doing this to us. Why are we victims, what is
the point, why can't the good times just roll? And even when they do, it doesn't
seem to be all that perfect, it's always disturbed or spoiled to some degree,
necessitating straightening out, and energy, to just put Humpty Dumpty back together
Whose fault is this?
It states in Pirkei Avos, 5: 3: "Avraham Avinu was tested ten times, and he passed
all of those tests; this is to inform you the endearment of Avraham Avinu [to Hashem]."
It is important that we know — this is to inform you —
that the endearment of Avraham Avinu in the eyes of Hashem came about through
his passing of ten specific "tests." This is Avraham Avinu, and his life
— he passed ten tests!
What does that say to us? Let's delve into that statement.
In the Maharal's world of numerology, the number ten is associated with
holiness; it represents a complete set, symbolizes the full range of possibilities.
It is the many consolidated into the one; it is the symbol of the difference between
the least and the most, the maximum degree of differentiation. Thus, to say that
Hashem tested Avraham Avinu with ten tests is to say that He tested him in all
possible ways. And indeed, in the commentary on Avos by the brother of the
Vilna Ga'on, he writes that the ten nisyonos of Avraham Avinu incorporate
within them all possible difficulties that a person may experience in life
— difficulties that a person may face physically; questions in emunah;
difficulties in ruchniyus; issues concerning one's wife and children;
difficulties involved in chinuch habanim; predicaments concerning
one's possessions; hardships determining one's role in the community; shidduchim;
parnassa; you name it!
Now, we know of the time-honored rule that ma'aseh avos siman l'banim.
We know that we carry within us the spiritual DNA of our Avos, and especially
that of Avraham Avinu.
Let us now look at and study Mesilas Yesharim, chapter one: After explaining
that the goal of our lives is to attain closeness and bonding with Hashem, and that
that is the ultimate pleasure possible, and that the path that Hashem chose for
us to reach this goal is through our performance of Torah and mitzvos in this world,
and that Hashem placed a person in a world where there exist various obstacles to
that pathway — those obstacles being our physical needs, wants, and desires — he
then says that a person is thus constantly in a state of battle. For every aspect
and occurence in this world, whether good or bad, is but a nisayon, a test,
for a person to see what path he or she will choose; whether the circumstance be
wealth or poverty, serenity or tribulations or suffering — everything, no matter
where a person turns, no matter what he or she does or what he or she faces — is
a test to determine his or her mettle, to see how he or she will wage this war.
In Derech Hashem (section 2, chapter 3), Ramchal (the author of Mesilas Yesharim)
elaborates, and writes: Good and evil exist throughout the beri'ah…the
good consists of every possible good, worthy quality (e.g, patience, kindness, empathy,
generosity, civility, bitachon, judging favorably, being satisfied with
what one has, humility, happiness, zerizus, truth-seeking, Torah-study);
and its opposite consists of every bad quality (e.g, anger, impatience, arrogance,
brazenness, egocentrism, cruelty, mercilessness, worry, sadness, jealousy, laziness,
stinginess, inapprpriate desires, falsehood, lashon hora).
He continues: Hashem's wisdom has decreed that in order for every possible
quality that can be included within the limits of the nature that a man has, which
is there for him to fulfill his ultimate purpose of existence, Hashem brings together
all these qualities (the good and its opposite middah) together with their
causes (e.g, that traffic jam, your spouse being late — again!, that plea for tzedakah,
that nudnik asking you for a favor, that obnoxious neighbor, competition, not getting
the raise you wanted…just take ten situations from what happened to you — yes,
you! — yesterday — yes, yesterday!) and everything which surrounds them and accompanies
All the people in the world are placed into different stations in life, different
situations — and every station, every event, is a test for that particular individual
at that particular moment in time — an opportunity to embrace the good, or to fall
prey to the bad (e.g, Shall I yell at him? Should I get angry? Should I become frantic
with worry? Should I bend the rules? Shall I tell Reuven what Shimon did to me?
Shall I turn to Hashem or should I use my protexia?).
All these situations are made in order to create these tests, so that a person
choose: Will the wealthy person be generous or stingy? Will the poor person be satisfied
and have bitachon, or will he be bitter, angry, sullen? Will the wealthy
person be haughty? Will the gifted person be humble, sharing with and caring for
The same is true for every single event! Every person's predicaments
in life are his or her challenges. Divine Wisdom divides these challenges amongst
the human race, with every person having his or her particular ones, each in its
proper time and place. And it is within this framework that he or she must strive
for success. His or her deeds are then judged by Hashem, depending on the particular
responsibility that was given to him or her at that moment, in that situation.
Thus, all gratification and all suffering and all annoyances and all frustrations
exist as a challenge and a test — and the nature of the challenge is what Divine
Wisdom has decreed to be best for — and the life task of — each and every individual.
The manner in which all this is accomplished is beyond our ability to grasp and
comprehend, and we can never understand it or perceive it fully. It is done with
unimaginable wisdom, with each person treated according to his or her nature and
potential and role in life.
To be continued…