Parashat Lech-Lecha: The Real Test
Parashat Lech-Lecha begins with God command to Abraham to leave his homeland and settle in Canaan. This command is listed as one of the ten tests with which God tested our patriarchs and which he successfully withstood.
We might wonder why this is considered a test. True, it is very difficult and challenging to leave one’s homeland and move to a new country, and it is especially difficult to leave without knowing where exactly one is going, as was the case with Abraham ("Go…to the land that I will show you" – Bereshit 12:1). But we must bear in mind that God explicitly promised Abraham great rewards for relocating – offspring, wealth and prominence. If God – whose word can always be trusted – appeared to us and promised us a life of great success and wealth if we moved to some remote location, would we hesitate? Wasn’t this decision a no-brainer for Abraham? Why was this command considered a test?
The answer is that the command to move to Canaan could not be fulfilled in an instant; it entailed a lifelong commitment. There have always been people who rose to the occasion under exceptional circumstances and heroically withstood the most difficult and trying ordeals. In Spain, Germany, and on countless other occasions throughout our nation’s turbulent history, there have been Jews who made heroic decisions, sacrificing property and life for their faith. Abraham, too, was prepared to sacrifice his life for the sake of his beliefs when he defied the king, Nimrod, and refused to worship idols even at the threat of death. These acts of heroism are undoubtedly remarkable and inspiring, but they lasted for just a few moments. The test of "Lech-Lecha" was greater, because it required Abraham to accept God’s command each and every day of his life. Even when a devastating drought struck Canaan shortly after his arrival, forcing Abraham to temporarily settle in Egypt, where his wife was then abducted, he had to retain his faith and remain steadfastly committed to God. This command did not require the sacrifice of life, but it required consistent devotion over many years and decades. And this is perhaps the greatest test of all.
Spiritual greatness does not depend merely on one’s ability to rise to the occasion and make great sacrifices under dire circumstances. This is certainly important, but the real challenge is the consistent, lifelong, day in and day out commitment to Torah. For most of us, major tests present themselves rarely and are usually temporary. The real challenge of the Jew is that of "Lech Lecha," maintaining our ongoing faith and devotion amid the inevitable bumps in the road that come up on a daily basis. By consistently withstanding these smaller, daily tests, we follow in the footsteps of our great patriarch and prove ourselves to be worthy bearers of his legacy.