What Constitutes a “Trial?”

Dani Roth

In Lech Lecha, we learn of many of Avraham’s perfections. This Dvar Torah will delve into a few of them.

The first we see appears in pasuk 12:10 which describes Avraham facing a famine. The Rabbis say this is one of Avraham’s 10 trials. We can understand the trial in sending away Ishmael, and certainly sacrificing Yitzchak. A trial presents one’s perfection; it’s not for God to gain new knowledge, as God knows everything before it happens. Avraham displayed perfection by sending away Ishmael, since Sarah saw that he was a negative influence, and Avraham still loved him, but he displayed perfection in sending him away, because God endorsed Sarah’s wishes. Avraham also displayed perfection by sacrificing Yitzchak, as he put aside his own plans to educate the world through a son, and accepted losing him. 

The question is, what perfection did Avraham present by facing a famine? God told Avraham to leave his land, and when he arrived at the new land, there was no food, and that's why he went to Egypt, where there was food. How was this a trial? What was Avraham’s perfection?

The answer lies in the fact that we believe if God commands us on a mission, and we follow his command, we will be secure from any mishap. This ideology is wrong to believe, and is egotistical. Just because we are doing God’s will doesn't mean that we are allowed to proceed carelessly, or that we can rely on God for every step of success in our mission. Rabbi Chait said that when Avraham experienced the famine at the new land, he momentarily felt this should not have happened since he was following God’s words; he felt he should be protected. But then he corrected his thinking with his realization that this was a false belief. This was the trial, to reject traces of superstitions.

So we learn that a “trial” God places on man, can allow man to detect and overcome imperfections, from child rearing (Ishmael), to forfeiting our plans (Yitzchak) and to abandoning false beliefs (famine).