Parashat Vayera- Life’s Tests and “Ayin Toba”
The Mishna in Pirkeh Abot (5:3) tells that Abraham Abinu was tested ten times, and succeeded in each and every one. The most famous of Abraham’s tests, of course, was the test of Akedat Yishak, when he was told to sacrifice his beloved son, Yishak, and he prepared to slaughter Yishak until, at the last moment, G-d told him to desist.
Rav Haim of Volozhin (Lithuania, 1749-1821) noted a subtle contrast between this Mishna, and the immediately preceding Mishna, which states, "There were ten generations from Noah until Abraham." There, in mentioning the ten generations from Noah to Abraham, the Mishna refers to our patriarch simply as "Abraham," whereas in mentioning Abraham’s ten trials, the Mishna calls him, "Abraham Abinu" – "our patriarch Abraham." Why?
Rav Haim of Volozhin explained that when it comes to the area of "Nisyonot" – the tests and trials of life, Abraham is truly "Abinu" – our father. He bequeathed to each and every one of us his remarkable strength and determination, the ability to withstand and overcome any difficulty and any hardship. By passing his ten tests, Abraham instilled within his descendants for all time the fortitude to withstand life’s tests, to triumph over adversity and come out of even the darkest situations stronger, more determined and more joyful than we were before.
The secret to this strength can be found in a later Mishna in Pirkeh Abot (5:19), which lists several attributes of Abraham Abinu, the first of which is "Ayin Toba" – "a good eye." This means that Abraham looked upon everything as good, firmly believing that everything that transpires is the will of G-d, who always does what is best. A person who lives with this pristine level of faith can overcome any test, any trial, and any form of hardship, because he trusts that as difficult and as painful as the situation seems, it truly is good.
Whenever we face a difficult challenge, let us remember that we are Abraham’s children, who inherited from him the extraordinary ability to withstand any test and withstand any hardship – and that he has taught us that the way this is done is through Emuna, through unwavering belief in Hashem’s goodness, that, as taught to us by Rabbi Akiba, "Everything Hashem does is for the best."