Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz: Opportunity and Challenge

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yated1.jpgParshas Lech Lecha begins with the immortal words Hashem spoke to Avrohom Avinu, telling him to leave his land and home and to travel to the land which He will show him.

Avrom heeds Hashem’s command. He gathers his wife, nephew Lot, material possessions and flock of followers and leads them on a journey to the Promised Land. We are taught that this was one of a series of ten challenges that Hashem sent Avrohom which he rose to admirably.

But what was the big deal, many ask. After all, Hashem promised him great material wealth and endless blessings, so why wouldn’t he go? Why is Avrom’s compliance in this situation regarded as one of the ten tests? Who wouldn’t have readily accepted such a challenge from G-d?

We all get comfortable with our surroundings. We grow accustomed to the people we associate with and develop friendships with them. We may be stuck in a dead-end job, live in the wrong part of town and have little sense of accomplishment, but conditioning sets in and makes it difficult to uproot ourselves.

When an opportunity appears that would lift us out of our rut and make our lives more rewarding, we find excuses to stay put. We blame it on our spouses, on our children, or on external factors, but the truth is that we are scared to make a move; we are afraid of new challenges.

Yet those who take the plunge despite the human tendency to fear change, often accomplish far more than those who bow to that fear.

Some see change as a disaster; others see it as an opportunity for improvement.

Change is, in essence, a challenge. Are you good enough to succeed in a strange town where people don’t know you? Do you have what it takes to succeed in new surroundings and convince a new group of people of your qualifications?

Suppose you lived in a small town until now; can you make it in the big city where there is so much more competition?

Perhaps you’ve eked out a living from your little grocery store all these years, but now big stores are the rage. Do you have what it takes to expand your store and enhance your prospects, or will you surrender to defeatism and permit the other guys to overtake you?

Many are content with what they have and turn down opportunities which could lead to serious advancements in their career and income. Quite often, they don’t even recognize promising prospects right in front of them.

Certainly, change is difficult, but if you view it as a challenge, and not as a tragedy, then you can succeed as Avrohom Avinu did. He could have reasoned that if he picked up stakes and traveled to a strange country, people who once held him in esteem would view him as a failure who couldn’t make it in his town and had to try his luck among strangers. He’d lose credibility and would have a hard time winning respect and acceptance in a new environment.

The test would determine which force in him was stronger; his commitment to the word of G-d; or the desire to remain safe and secure in his ancestral home. It was also a test to see if he would rest on the laurels of what he had accomplished in spreading the awareness of G-d in his society, or if he would rise to the challenge of continuing his mission on foreign turf.

The dilemma of whether to reach for higher spheres of accomplishment or rest content with what one has accomplished is universal.

There are always a plethora of excuses for not taking a risk, even when the opportunity is a solid one that promises great benefits. Avrom could have argued with Hashem; he could have tried to explain why he was better off where he was and why it was dangerous for him to move. He could have ignored the requested move or interpreted it in a way that would not have entailed jeopardizing his current position.

Avrohom Avinu rose above the natural tendency to shy away from change. In return, he was granted material possessions and blessings from Above and earned the distinction of becoming the Am Hamon Goyim. With the birth of Yitzchok Avinu, he forged the first link of the glorious chain of the Jewish people.

When we are confronted by change, it is a time for us to reinforce our belief in ourselves and those around us and reject the insecurities which plague us.

If you think about it, you will notice that at every one of life’s milestones, we were compelled to take a leap of faith. From the day we let go of our mother’s loving hand and stepped forward into kindergarten, up to the momentous decisions surrounding engagement and marriage, we were goaded into taking that leap into the unknown.

We often had to fight off cold feet and inertia, but how much poorer our lives would be if we had let ourselves stagnate and refused to embrace change?

If a person finds himself in an area where people are on a lower moral rung, he can write the place off as depraved and corrupt or he can see it as an opportunity to bring G-dliness to those people and help them right their ways.

In a situation that cries out for help, one can either throw one’s hands up in despair or adopt the cause of helping the disadvantaged and the abused. One can hear their silent cries and exert himself to alleviate their pain and suffering and making the world a better place for everyone to live in.

Avrohom wasn’t some kind of pie-in-the-sky utopian idealist. He separated from his nephew Lot when he felt he couldn’t influence him to desist from dishonest behavior. He fought the Four Kings and refused to accept any remuneration from the wicked king of Sedom.

He wasn’t an abstract, impractical dreamer. He was simply always on the lookout for an opportunity to do good. The reason the Torah records the accounts of his life is to have us learn from them and follow in the ways of our forefather Avrohom.

If we want to be blessed, if we want to establish a legacy of good, if we want to raise upstanding children, we must study this week’s parsha and glean its many lessons.

We are put here to raise a new generation of greatness and make a positive mark on the world. We are to make it a better place than it was before. In order to accomplish our mission as Bnei Avrohom, Yitzchok, V’Yaakov, we have to be constantly attuned to hear G-d’s challenges and rise to them.

© 2007 Yated Neeman.


6 COMMENTS

  1. your point is great, its michazek people to move on inspite the hardship, but how can you explain avrohom intentions, with our small minds, especially to say that avrohom had a hard time leaving his place because of his comfortability, you can’t imagine the gedolim from previous generation, feshore not the amoraim, and etc. so how with our generation which is full of pizza and sports etc, going to tychh what avrohom was? you realy need to stop feeling so confident , even though you have the power of your pen.

  2. pinny lifshitz the new gadol hador

    we all lked the 4 page spread of you visiting EY and all the gedolim

    do you have hours for taking kvitlach and giving brachos?