Weekly Letter: Withstanding the Tests

This Week, as we read in the Parsha about some of the ten tests of Avraham, we present a letter from the Rebbe to a person experiencing great challenges. The Rebbe’s encouraging message refers to Avraham our patriarch, and the great challenges he faced and tests he withstood. He did so with bitachon and with joy and gladness – for which he was richly rewarded. The letter, written originally in English, is from the archives of the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel.

The experiences of Avraham are also the experiences of his children, the Jewish people; and you likewise, ought to consider yourself privileged and worthy of tests – for which you will surely be richly rewarded, the Rebbe writes.

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Mr. ________                                                             5729

London, England

Greeting and Blessing:

I have been informed of the loss that has been sustained by your business enterprise, the profits of which were ear­marked for Lubavitch House activities, and that this unfortu­nate occurrence has considerably upset you.

While such a reaction is quite understandable, it is necessary not to lose sight of the true Torah perspective. For, as with every manner of occurrence and topic, the Torah contains an answer and a definite viewpoint. Indeed, it has often been emphasized that the Torah is eternal, and not simply in regard to the mitzvot, but also in regard to the various narratives in the Torah. And while the events and episodes mentioned in the Torah were all connected with certain persons, and certain circumstances, in a specific time and place, nevertheless, their message remains eternal, and valid for all times and all places, with particular relevance, furthermore, to each and every one of us individually.

I have in mind the earliest tests and trials which the first Jew, our father, Abraham, had to undergo, at a time when he was one and alone in his generation, as it is written, “One was Abraham.”1 When G-d said to Abraham Lech lecha2, commanding him to leave his land, his birthplace, and his father’s house, it was very difficult for him to do so–even to sever one of these connections, not to mention all three together. Then, Abraham was told to go to a land unknown to him, (Canaan, which was later to become Eretz Yisrael), where, he was promised, he would become great and a source of blessing for all. Yet no sooner did he arrive in that particular land than famine broke out and with such severity that he had to leave at once and go to Egypt, a journey made undoubtedly with G-d’s approval. Under such circumstances, one might have expected that Abraham would very seriously question Divine Providence, since it seemed so inconsistent and contradictory. All the more so in view of the statement in Pirkei d’Rabbi Elazar3, that the famine affected only the land of Canaan, while all others were spared, something that clearly was intended to test him. Yet, not only did Abraham not complain but he also did everything with joy and gladness of heart, bringing his whole family along with him, etc. Of course, it all turned out only to be a test of his bitachon–his trust in G-d–for soon afterwards Abraham was richly rewarded, and he returned to Canaan richly laden with cattle, silver and gold, as the Torah tells us. In reference to these experiences of Abraham, the Midrash states that everything experienced by Abraham was similarly experienced by his children.4

In light of the above, you ought to consider yourself highly privileged, having as you do the zechut to be consid­ered worthy of nisyonot (tests), similar to the above–the similarity surely requires no elaboration. I am confident that very soon you, too, will see the happy conclusion of this test, and be richly rewarded with “silver and gold,” (in the literal sense, too). All the more so, since the profits of this business enterprise have been dedicated to a holy cause.

Inasmuch as we will soon celebrate the Yom Tov of Pe­sach, the Festival of our Liberation, may G-d grant that you too should be liberated from all distracting thoughts, and be enabled to continue your sacred work in matters of Torah and holiness, in general, and the activities of Lubavitch and ko­sher chinuch in particular, and that you may do so with joy and gladness of heart.

Wishing you and yours a kosher and a happy Pesach,

With blessing,

[Sign.]

  1. Ezek., 33:24.
  2. Gen., 12:1.
  3. Chapter 26.
  4. Ramban Breishis, 12:6.

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The above letter is from The Letter and the Spirit by Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP).

These letters were written originally in English and were prepared for publication by Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel, whose responsibility it was the Rebbe’s correspondence in English and several other languages.

We thank Rabbi Shalom Ber Schapiro, who was entrusted by his father-in-law Rabbi Mindel with his archives and who is Director of the Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP), for making the Rebbe’s letters available to the wider public. May the merit of the many stand him in good stead.

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