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Put to the Test

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The LORD had said to Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you." Genesis 12:1

The Torah portion for this week, Lech Lecha, which means "go to yourself." It is from Genesis 12:1-17:27, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 40:27-41:16.

One of the rites of passage when an American moves to Israel is taking an Israeli driver's license test. These tests are notoriously hard, and plenty of good drivers with decades of experience have been known to fail. It doesn't matter if you've been driving for 40 years. When you get behind that wheel, you are 17 again, and you have to convince the instructor that you are a capable driver.

In contrast, when God gives us a test in life, He already knows what we are capable of doing. God knows everything the past, the present, and the future. God sees straight into our hearts and knows exactly who we are and what we can achieve. So why does He give tests in the first place? He already knows if we can pass them.

This is a question that the Jewish sages discuss when it comes to this week's Torah reading, which begins: "The Lord had said to Abram, 'Go from your country . . . to the land I will show you.'" The sages explain that this commandment to leave everything familiar behind and walk in faith with God was the first of 10 tests that God would give to Abraham. And, like Abraham, God tests us all. Why?

The sages teach that God doesn't give us tests so that He can know what we are capable of; He gives us tests so that we can know what we can do.

Everyone is born with potential to be great. However, potential on its own is worthless. It's only when we realize and live out our potential that it becomes meaningful. Tests are an effective method for bringing out our potential and making it real. A person may be born with the capacity to have faith, but it is only when he is tested that he becomes a man of faith. Or someone is born with an innate ability to be a rock for others, but it's only when she is tested that she becomes a woman of strength. We are born with the ability to love, but it's through our tests that we discover how fierce our love can be. We are born with kindness, but we will never know the depths of our selflessness until we are put through a trial.

The sages conclude with these encouraging words, "There is only failure when there is a test; however, tests are only given to those who can pass them." Or, as the concept has been shortened in this Yiddish proverb, "God gave burdens, also shoulders."

When we are faced with a test, remember: Every test is given by God out of love and there is no such thing as a test that we cannot pass!

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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