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Good Tests v. Bad Tests

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

Library » Philosophy » Pain and Suffering » The Purpose | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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When the Israelites were in the desert, they were constantly testing G-d's patience. When facing the Red Sea they whined about G-d's inability to save them from the Egyptians. When they departed the Sinai Desert and proceded towards the Promised Land, they complained about the length of the “arduous” journey (three days!). For lack of anything substantive to grumble about, they griped about the miraculous and extremely tasty Mannah. This form of testing G-d became standard behavior, and altogether, the Jews tested G-d ten times before He disgustedly declared the entire generation unworthy of entering the Holy Land.

Ironically, the Jews seemed to be following G-d’s example. The Mishnah (Ethics 5:3) says that “with ten tests our father Abraham was tested [by G-d] and he withstood them all—in order to make known how great was our father Abraham’s love [for G-d].” This raises the question: isn’t this a tad hypocritical on G-d’s part? If it is acceptable for G-d to test Abraham, why was it not appropriate for the Jews to reciprocate in kind? If He can dish it out, shouldn’t He be able to take it as well?!

G-d’s tests are intended to uncover within the individual hidden powers which would otherwise be untapped... G-d’s tests are actually a demonstration of trust; for He only tests a person whom He trusts to have the ability to pass the test with flying colors.
In truth, however, there is a fundamental difference between the Jews testing G-d and G-d’s testing of Abraham. G-d’s tests are intended to uncover within the individual hidden powers which would otherwise be untapped. Abraham always had the courage, fortitude and love for G-d necessary to sacrifice his son, however, neither he nor the world was cognizant of this latent potential until G-d actually put him to the test. G-d only tests a person who has the powers to withstand the tribulation, thus G-d’s tests are actually a demonstration of trust; G-d only tests a person whom He trusts to have the ability to pass the test with flying colors. The Jews, on the other hand, tested G-d because they lacked trust in their Creator. If they would have trusted G-d they would have realized that all His actions were in their best interests and He would surely provide for their every need.

This is a powerful lesson for us all. When faced with difficulty and challenges we must keep in mind that this is actually a display of trust on G-d’s part. We must live up to G-d’s high expectations, and then the test will have outlived its purpose and will vanish.


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RELATED CATEGORIES

History » Patriarchs, 12 Tribes
History » Desert Sojourn

Abraham
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
Mishnah
First written rendition of the Oral Law which G-d spoke to Moses. Rabbi Judah the Prince compiled the Mishna in the 2nd century lest the Oral law be forgotten due to the hardships of the Jewish exiles.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.