Parshas Lech Lecha: Two kinds of Tests

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 In Parshas Lech Lecha, we are really introduced to the life of Avraham Avinu. As the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos famously tells us Avraham had ten tests in his life. There is a debate as to what those tests were, and specifically, which one was first. Some opinions say that the first test was found not actually in this week’s Parsha, but at the end of last week’s parsha, through subtle hinting of the verse. The reference is from the following passuk: “Haran died in the lifetime of his father Terah, in his native land, UR Kasdim.” Rashi famously, alludes to a story we all know, but is never mentioned in the text, based on the word UR Kasdim, which means the fire of Kasdim:  Avram was accused as having smashed his father’s idols. Terach, his father, then handed over Avram to Nimrod, and Avram was cast into a fiery pit, known as UR Kasdim. Needless to say, Avram was miraculously spared. 

Other opinions, however, say that the first test was undoubtedly the test of Lech Lecha: To pick up, and completely leave behind his home, and his life, and go to some unknown place that G-d would reveal to him. 

The question that some ask, is which nisayon, which test, was bigger? At first glance it would appear that jumping into the fire rather than renouncing his belief in one G-d was the bigger test. He was clearly ready to sacrifice his very life for his belief in one G-d, and that seems to be a bigger deal than deciding to merely relocate for the sake of G-d. But, if that is the case, as Rabbi Frand asks, why doesn’t it get more attention in the Torah? Why is it resigned to two words “Ur Kasdim” which alludes to the back story of Avraham jumping into the pit that Rashi quoted in Parshas Noach? 

There are several approaches in answering this question, but Rav Frand quotes a particularly interesting idea from Rav Simcha Zissel Brodie. He describes how in life there are two kinds of nisyonos– two distinct kinds of tests. One could be described as a more glamorous kind of test, when the spotlight is on you, and the cameras are on. This is a moment when your adrenaline kicks in, and you heroically rise to the occasion. If you see someone getting beaten up on the street, or someone drowning in a frozen pond, and you run to save them without even having time to logically think about it, you are passing this kind of test. This was the test of Avraham Avinu jumping into the fiery pit in Ur Kasdim that was merely alluded to in last week’s parsha.

But then, there is another type of test entirely: the daily tests– when no one else knows about it, and no one else sees it. No one gives you a medal, or interviews you for a news report for these kinds of tests. You look at the clock one morning, and see it is 6:30 AM. It is pitch black outside, and cold. You don’t want to get out of bed. But you do end up dragging yourself out of your warm and comfortable bed anyways, because you want to help make the minyan. You come home from work in a bad mood, but you decide to turn it around at home, so you can be pleasant and kind to your family members. You spend time reading to your children or grandchildren, even though you’d rather be watching the Nuggets. You go to a Torah class or to learn with a chavrusa for a half hour one evening. These are the tests of daily life– this is what is known as the “daily grind.” This was the test of Lech Lecha. Avraham is told to get up, and leave everything behind– a huge test–but not with as much fanfare or drama as the previous one in Ur Kasdim. 

Says Rabbi Frand, these tests are not glamorous– but they are challenging nisyonos nonetheless. We all have these tests of Lech Lecha– we need to go, for ourselves, to our daily tests. Now especially, I think this lesson is very poignant. We just finished the wonderful month of Tishrei, with all of its holidays and excitement. It was not that hard to get inspired. Now, in the month of Mar-Cheshvan, the days get shorter, the nights get longer, and it gets colder. There are no holidays whatsoever, and the inspiration of the previous month begins to wane. But this is when it gets real. This is when real life starts. How we respond now, is the great indicator of where we are at, and how we have truly grown over the past month. 

This then, is perhaps why Avraham’s test of Lech Lecha, and NOT Ur Kasdim, is given the greater fanfare– It is the less glamorous test of Lech Lecha, afterall, which not only appears explicitly in the Torah, but even has its own parsha named after it. The more flashy, heroic test of Avraham Jumping in the pit, only is alluded to by 2 words: Ur Kasdim. Perhaps the lesson is that what we need to focus on is simply the daily struggles we face. To understand them for what they are: nisyonos, tests, that will help shape our identities and who we are as people. G-d willing we can strive to pass these daily tests with flying colors, and continue to grow as ovdei Hashem each and every day. 

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