| Parshah |


Why does the Torah specifically emphasize the nisyonos of Avraham?

And He said, “I am Hashem… do not be afraid of going down to Mitzrayim. (Bereishis 46:3)

he Mishnah in Avos (5:4) says that Avraham Avinu was tested with ten tests, and he withstood them all. However, if we take a look at Yaakov Avinu’s life, didn’t he have at least as many nisyonos? Eisav, fleeing home, Lavan, the battle with the malach, losing Rochel, Dinah, Yosef, Shimon in prison, the hunger, and now going down to Mitzrayim. It’s easy to find ten nisyonos in Yaakov Avinu’s life. Why does the Torah specifically emphasize the nisyonos of Avraham? (Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shiurim al Chumash)

I went to high school with Temima, back in the days when everyone knew each other. So, when I heard she was sitting shivah in Eretz Yisrael for her mother, I quickly reshuffled my schedule to go see her.

This wasn’t the first time I’d be paying a shivah call to Temima. I vividly remembered being menachem avel when her father had passed away while she was in high school. Mr. S. had been sick for a while and his name was on all our Tehillim lists. As his condition deteriorated, we davened and initiated various programs as a zechus for a refuah sheleimah. But at the end of tenth grade, Temima’s father was niftar.

I was uncomfortable going to see her. I was a regular teen. What did I know about comforting someone who’d suffered such a loss? But I knew it was the right thing to do, so I slipped into the house and stood in the back, hoping I’d manage to get through the visit without making any awful gaffes.

The Chasam Sofer teaches us an extraordinary lesson. What constitutes a nisayon? Says the Chasam Sofer, a nisayon comes with a feeling of distance from HaKadosh Baruch Hu. When Avraham Avinu went to the Akeidah (Bereishis 22:4), it says thatּ Avraham Avinu saw hamakom meirachok, implying that he felt as if Hashem (HaMakom) was distant from him. Part of his challenge was this feeling of remoteness from Hashem. And that is the hallmark of a nisayon.
Yaakov Avinu had difficulties in life, but wherever he went, Hashem spoke to him. When he ran away from Eisav, Hashem told him, “I’m with you, and I’ll guard you wherever you go” (28:15). And now when Yaakov is going down to Mitzrayim, Hashem assures him that He will be there and Yaakov should not be afraid.

When I entered the shivah house, our Chumash teacher was there. She and Temima were speaking about all the pirkei Tehillim said, and all the Amens and shemiras halashon initiatives that had been dedicated to her father’s refuah sheleimah. Then Temima, wise beyond her years, told our teacher, “At least I feel that no matter how horrible it’s all been, I definitely connected with Hashem.”

Life has two types of challenges. There are challenges that can be quite severe, but the person enduring them nonetheless retains a feeling of closeness to the Borei Olam. And then there are the more challenging nisyonos, which come with a feeling of distance from Hashem. These are the nisyonos of Avraham Avinu. They may forge greatness, but they are the most challenging nisyonos of all.

Now, so many years later, Temima was sitting shivah for her mother. Sitting quietly in the shivah house, I learned that Mrs. S. had suddenly been killed in a car crash by a drunk driver. I was shocked and horrified.

I thought back to the first shivah call I’d paid Temima, and it seemed to me that I sensed an added layer of pain. This time there had been no chance to daven; had been no chance to beg. Did Hashem not want that connection? A chance to ask? I knew what it meant to lose someone suddenly, and I felt the pain. I remember wishing that I’d had a chance to daven and beg Hashem for life. But I’d been denied that opportunity, and that distance carved a chasm of pain.

Now, so many years later, I may have been more mature than I was the last time I paid Temima a shivah call, but I was just as much at a loss for words.

HaMakom yenachem. Whether He seems far or close, He will console.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 824)

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