April 24, 2024
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April 24, 2024
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“Avraham, our forefather, was tested with 10 trials, and he withstood all of them” (Pirkei Avot, chapter 5), and our parsha begins with the trial of “Lech lecha.” Avraham is to leave Charan, his birthplace, which means leaving his community, the people he was familiar with and grew up with, his constituents, his friends and loved ones, his own family—and to go … to a place unbeknownst to him.

What gave Avraham the ability to faithfully accept and follow through on this test? The Bat Ayin explains that it was Avraham’s bitachon (belief), that everything that Hashem does is for the good, that gave him the ability to accept and fulfill what Hashem wanted, and to meet this nisayon (test) of “lech lecha,” despite the great difficulty involved.

Says the Bat Ayin, this can be gleaned from the beginning of our parsha which states that Avraham was 75 years old when he left Charan: The gematria (numerical value) of bitachon is 75. Avraham was 75, meaning, Avraham was fortified with [the appropriate measure of] the midah of bitachon in Hashem, and thus, he left Charan, i.e, that is why he was capable of leaving Charan, and fulfilling the nisayon of lech lecha.

We can suggest that this idea of Avraham’s bitachon may be inferred from Rashi. For the words “lech lecha” mean “go for yourself,” and Rashi picks up on the word “lecha” and explains that what Hashem intends to say is “for your pleasure and for your benefit.” We learn from Rashi that Hashem was bolstering this bitachon of Avraham by telling him that this challenge—although extremely difficult now—is for the good; it will ultimately lead to a more beneficial and pleasurable existence.

While Avraham excelled in the bitachon that everything Hashem wishes and carries out for a person is for the good, on the other hand, the haftorah of our parsha opens with a pasuk that seems to contrast Avraham’s level of bitachon with Yaakov’s, taking Yaakov to task for falling short in the midah of bitachon. The pasuk states, “Why do you say, O Yaakov, and declare, O Yisrael: My way is hidden from Hashem, and my cause has been passed over by my God?” (Yeshayah, 40:27). Reflecting on Yosef being taken from him, and thinking he is no longer alive, was something that Yaakov couldn’t seem to fully come to terms with, and he, in fact, complained, blaming his sons for the situation he found himself in, saying, “Why did you treat me badly?” The midrash (Bereishit Rabbah, 91:10 with Etz Yosef’s commentary) learns that the pasuk above in our haftorah which quotes Yaakov as saying (and thereby showing his lack of faith) “My way is hidden from Hashem,” is what Yaakov was essentially saying when he complained and said “Why did you treat me badly?” Hashem responds, “I am working to coronate his son (Yosef) in Egypt, and he says ‘Why did you treat me badly…?’”

Yaakov was put through a heart-rending nisayon, and on some level he fell short of recognizing and trusting that this challenge was ultimately for the good; that although difficult now, it will lead to something great.

This, says Rav Chaim Shmuelvitz, is the meaning of the famous phrase, “gam zu letova, this too is for the good.” These words are to be taken literally: trials and tribulations one may face are for the good, meaning, they are stepping stones leading to something good. These few, yet, powerful words convey the faith and trust that this challenge is necessary in order to lead to the ultimate good that Hashem has in store for a person. Each difficulty is an episode and link in one’s personal unfolding story. It’s for one’s ultimate best, it’s an element in one’s life that is part of a bigger and greater picture that is in the process of being drawn. (See Sichos Mussar, 13).

Hence, when the Bat Ayin highlights Avraham’s bitachon that all that Hashem wishes and does is for the good, perhaps this is the meaning—that Avraham trusted that this trial of lech lecha that he will undergo is for the good, and will lead to something better in his life; and hence, it’s the bitachon of “gam zu letova” which can be what gave Avraham the strength to pass the difficult nisayon of lech lecha. We can suggest that this may also be how Avraham’s wife, Sarah, lived her life despite the many challenges she herself faced: The parsha in Chayei Sarah begins with stating that, “The years of Sarah’s life were 100 years, and 20 years and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life.” The concluding words, “the years of Sarah’s life” seem extraneous, but Rashi explains that these words come to teach us that all the years of Sarah’s life “were all equal for good—kulam shavin letova.” Perhaps Rashi is teaching us that Sarah also attained this bitachon that no matter what challenges she faced at any stage of her life, she trusted that it was l’tova, for the good.

Reb Chaim Volozhin, commenting on the earlier mentioned Mishna in Pirkei Avot, says a remarkable idea, that the efforts that the tzaddik (seemingly a reference to Avraham given the context of the Mishna) exerted to attain certain character traits, caused those traits to be ingrained and imprinted into our very nature, and with some effort one can attain those traits (Ruach Chaim, 5:3). Thus, perhaps this can mean that Avraham mastering this trait of bitachon caused it to be implanted in our nature as well, and that with some effort on our part, we too can attain this lofty measure of trust that can give one the confidence and fortitude to persevere, withstand and triumph through challenges and setbacks that might arise.


Binyamin is a graduate of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchanan and of Wurzweiler School of Social Work.

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