June 23, 2024
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June 23, 2024
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In Pursuit of Our Life Mission

Imagine your friend is a gifted inventor who proudly demonstrates for you a seemingly brilliant machine that he created. This newly created machine is fully self-sustaining, it oils itself, fuels itself, fixes itself and does not require any outside assistance or maintenance to provide for any of its needs. What would you say about such a machine?

If the machine produces something of value, then you would most likely agree that it is a brilliant invention. However, if the new machine does not actually generate anything, most logical thinkers would quickly conclude that this machine is ultimately madness. After all, a self-sustaining machine that doesn’t generate any worthwhile outcome ultimately lacks purpose.

This profound scenario presented by Rabbi Akiva Tatz represents the life trap into which some (too many?) of us fall. We largely live self-sustaining lives in which we feed ourselves, take care of ourselves, seek medical treatment when needed and generally find ways to provide for our needs. Yet all too often we continue on this cycle for many years without generating any meaningful long-term output, or even striving to accomplish meaningful goals. After all, we need a purposeful goal, a meaningful endpoint to justify life’s “means.”

The Slonimer Rebbe, in his popular sefer Nesivos Shalom, gifts us with an inspiring life lesson addressing our purpose in life. He presents an astounding medrash in which Rav Levi quotes two tests in which Hashem uses the words “lech lecha, go for yourself” in instructing Avraham to travel. One test was Hashem commanding Avraham to leave his father’s house and to travel to the land that Hashem will show him. The second test followed later when Hashem commanded Avraham to take his beloved son Yitzchak and to travel with him to Har HaMoriah to offer Yitzchak as a korban (sacrifice). The medrash concludes with Rav Levi asking which of these two “lech lecha” tests was more beloved to Hashem.

The Nesivos Shalom proceeds to ask in strong language how astonishing Rav Levi’s question in the medrash appears to be! After all, how could Rav Levi possibly compare the test of Avraham being asked to leave his father’s house with the mind-boggling test of being asked to offer his beloved son Yitzchak as a korban?

The Nesivos Shalom further asks how Rashi can possibly interpret “lech lecha” as being “le’tovascha u’lehenascha” (for Avraham’s own benefit), when after all, Avraham was being asked to sacrifice his son Yitzchak?

Finally, the Nesivos Shalom points out that there’s actually a third instance where the word “lech” is used, as Hashem instructed Avraham to “lech lefanai, to walk in front of Me” and to be “tamim” pure, innocent, complete. The Nesivos Shalom concludes his questions by wondering what the significance is of the three instances where the theme of “lech,” to travel, is used.

Using the medrash as a foundational springboard, the Nesivos Shalom weaves a life path for us to follow. He explains that going back to the beginning of creation there have never been two people exactly alike. Each and every person is different from the other and each was created with his or her own tafkid, mission that Hashem tasked him or her with accomplishing in this world. There is no one else created with the ability to fulfill the identical mission for which each of us were created. The Nesivos Shalom further explains that every character trait, every aspect of our personality, every strength that we possess, every weakness that we carry, as well as every experience that we have in life (seemingly positive experiences as well as life’s challenges) are all crucial components of our personal toolboxes that Hashem arms us with, and are crucial components in our efforts to be able to achieve our personal missions in life.

It is for this reason that Rashi says that these instances of “lech lecha” are for Avraham’s benefit. While we certainly ask Hashem to spare us (and all of Am Yisrael) from any of life’s challenges, the Nesivos Shalom is reminding us that Hashem does everything in life for a reason and each experience and aspect of our lives are meant to serve as a tool in achieving our life mission.

The Nesivos Shalom further explains the three instances of “lech,” attest to the fact that everything we do in life requires climbing, moving forward and continuous growth. A moment in which we are not moving towards accomplishing our life mission is a moment in which we are regressing.

The most profound and inspiring lesson that the Nesivos Shalom is teaching us, however, is embedded within the answer to our original and astounding question of how Rav Levi in the medrash can possibly ask which “lech lecha” was more beloved to Hashem? While leaving no doubt that the test of Avraham being asked to sacrifice his son Yitzchak was certainly the hardest of the tests, he explains that it was ultimately a one-time test. The difficult test of Akeidat Yitzchak required Avraham to “rise to the occasion” in one moment of time.

The test of Avraham being asked to leave his father’s house and to “lech lecha,” to determine and pursue his mission in life, ultimately is a continuous life-long challenge and, in fact, the very purpose for which we were each sent into this world. As such, the Nesivos Shalom teaches us that the test of spending a lifetime in search of, and in the pursuit of, fulfilling the purpose for which Hashem sent us into this world is the most beloved of all of the tests.

Rav Kook once said: “I was created because the time came for me to fill some need for the perfection of the real world. If I were to dedicate my efforts toward fulfilling the purpose of my creation, I would be considered worthy.” May we each be zoche (merit) to live ”lech lecha” lives of mission and purpose in this world.


Daniel Gibber is a longtime resident of Teaneck and is a VP of Sales at Deb El Food Products. In addition to learning as much Torah as he can, he is also privileged to speak periodically on the topic of emunah and be involved in Jewish outreach through Olami Manhattan. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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