Anyone can believe in G-d when things are moving along in the right direction. But what happens when our prayers aren’t answered and the challenges keep coming?
Sometimes, even with all of our emunah in Hashem, it’s tough to see the forest for the trees. Because G-d set up a world where He must remain hidden in order to preserve free will, man’s faith is constantly put to the test. Yet many times, if we look close enough, or perhaps through the gift of hindsight, we can see the hand of G-d.
This past year during Covid, a child with limited funds requested a particular Jewish singer to come and sing at his bar mitzvah. Between not getting paid and the stress of Covid, he was naturally hesitant to go, but his good conscience got the better of him and he eventually made the trek. The celebration was a complete success – except, shortly thereafter, the singer contracted Covid from the trip.
Now, if that was me, I might’ve wondered how this could happen to someone trying to do a good deed. And if the story ended there, we would have to accept the fact that life doesn’t always have a nice tidy ending. Sometimes, bad things just happen. Luckily, this story does have a happy ending, as the singer healed and was called upon for a very high paying, important gig.
He gladly accepted the opportunity but couldn’t help wondering why he was asked, since there were more famous singers available to perform. They explained that he was their only choice because they had heard about the chesed he exhibited toward the child he performed for months before. There was, however, one caveat. The only way he could take this gig was if he had already contracted the Covid.
What an amazing ending to a truly remarkable story. Aside from the fact that he only got a high paying gig because he did that chesed, Hashem’s unlimited miracle machine was in full gear as He simultaneously converted his Covid illness into the necessary prerequisite in booking that particular event.
How often in life do we immediately assume the worst of a situation, without ever considering that many setbacks are – more often than not – setups for something better. How many sweet girls have been heartbroken by a selfish boy who needs more time to commit? Yet years later, and sometimes sooner, you see these women happily married to men and raising amazing families. How many business deals, which originally went belly up, ended up having a happy ending?
My rebbe, Rav Hochner, shlita, once taught me that Avraham’s greatness wasn’t simply that he passed all 10 tests, which in and of itself were huge accomplishments. His greatness was further magnified by the fact that he never questioned G-d along the way. Even a simple “Uh, please forgive me, L-rd, but I’m confused, as this last request doesn’t make a whole lot of sense” would have been understandable. Who could blame him for wondering why G-d would command him to sacrifice his golden son, after years of trying to have a child to begin with. It’s so hard to even begin to understand what must have been happening in Avraham’s mind as this request was made of him.
Yet the text makes it quite clear that Avraham awoke early in the morning, saddled his own donkey, and moved with a renewed sense of vigor, prepared to do the will of G-d. There was no regret, no hesitation, and no doubt as to what he was prepared to do, even right up until the moment when he raises the knife and is about to sacrifice his son Yitzchak. And it is only at this point, when Avraham goes against his better judgment to follow the will of Hashem, does the Torah tells us: “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear G-d, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
Avraham reached the point where his emunah hit the pinnacle, where he was able to perceive that G-d is the Supreme, Omnipotent, Omniscient G-d, who knows exactly what He is doing at all times. While logic told him that G-d might be mistaken, he also knew all too well that G-d doesn’t make mistakes. If G-d told him to do it, that was enough for him to comply.
Our challenges are hopefully a lot easier to deal with than Avraham’s, but the lesson laid forth by our forefather is still the same. When a challenge comes our way, stop and consider that often what we perceive as bad might actually be good. Not always, but many times. In the case of Avraham, his challenge and the way in which he dealt with it became the secret ingredient that catapulted him into a different stratosphere. First, by becoming the father of monotheism, yet ultimately, by laying down the groundwork for Klal Yisrael’s formation and ultimate success.