In the 1970s, Uri Zohar was an iconic figure in Israeli culture: movie star, talk show host, and comedian. A celebrity of note, he had all the glitz, glamour, and money he could want. Then one day a Rabbi Silburman posed a challenge. He claimed he could intellectually prove to him the veracity and divinity of Torah. Uri, confident that he could disprove him, took the rabbi up on his offer. Although at first Uri chided and mocked the rabbi’s points, he soon found himself interested. By the time the conversation was over Uri was intrigued. Not only had he failed to discredit the rabbi’s proofs and arguments, but he was enamored by the conversation. From then on his conscience gave him no rest and thus began one of the greatest journeys to a Torah way of life in our time.
The former Israeli entertainer is today Rabbi Uri Zohar, one of the most influential leaders of Lev L’achim. He lectures worldwide about his journey and the true joy he discovered. In his own words, “For all his fabled billions, Bill Gates is not nearly as wealthy as I. If you were to offer me all of his money in exchange for my agreement not to don tefillin tomorrow morning, I wouldn’t hesitate for one second before refusing. Is he capable of such a refusal?”
These are not empty words. Uri Zohar had all of the luxuries and opulence exclusive to the rich and famous. But he gave it up for a more fulfilling life.
The Mishna (Avos 5:4) states: “With ten tests Avrohom Avinu was tested and he withstood all of them, to make it known how great Avrohom Avinu’s love was [for G-d].” Chazal disagree as to which events were officially considered tests. Yet, he successfully transcended all of them, his faith unshaken.
The Medrash relates that when Avrohom began denouncing polytheism, and publicly preaching about the Oneness of G-d, his father Terach brought him before the wicked King Nimrod. When Nimrod demanded that Avrohom publicly recant his blasphemous teachings, he refused, despite the threat of death. Nimrod had him cast into a blazing furnace. Two angels descended and protected Avrohom from the heat of the fire. When Avrohom emerged from the inferno unscathed the people were awed by him and his G-d who had protected him.
It would seem that the confrontation with Nimrod should be counted as one of the most difficult challenges that Avrohom faced. The fact that he remained staunch in the face of death would seem to be an incredible testament to his devotion and faith. Yet, the next challenge posed to Avrohom was that of Lech Lecha. “G-d said to Avrom, ‘Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you’” (Bereishis 12:1). Although uprooting oneself from one’s home and family at an advanced age is unquestionably a formidable challenge, it would seem to pale in comparison with the challenge of having to maintain one’s faith in the face of torturous death. If Avrohom’s tests were to be exponentially more challenging as they progressed, why does the saga of the furnace precede the command that Avrohom leave his family?
Furthermore, Rambam and Rabbeinu Bechayei, two of the most prominent commentators, do not include the ordeal with Nimrod as one of the tests. How can they omit such an epic event?
When the time came for Yitzchak to get married, Avrohom dispatched his faithful servant Eliezer to travel to his brother’s family. Before sending him, Avrohom made Eliezer take an oath that he would not seek a wife for Yitzchak from the Canaanites; he was only to go to Avrohom’s family.