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can you pass this test?

11/11/2021 08:13:08 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

The stories of the progenitors of Judaism in the book of Genesis are very open and honest. Their faults and mistakes are not covered up, but spoken of openly, so that we might learn from them. Unlike Dr. Spock’s book on how to raise children that was popular in the 1950’s, the book of Genesis shows us how not to raise children. Certainly favoring one child over siblings is a feature, be it Cain’s jealousy of Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, or Joseph and his brothers. Throughout Genesis the protagonists are faced with tests? Have you ever wondered why so many tests? Doesn’t God know the end results?

Rabbi Akiva teaches us the following in Pirkei Avot 3:19: Everything is foreseen, yet freedom of choice is granted. The obvious question, amongst many, is how can there be choice when all is foreseen? The text is telling us that God knows what we are going to do, but God does not interfere. God knows the outcome, but we do not. Our freedom of choice leads to the outcome that is foreseen by God. That outcome cannot be known by us at the time we make our choice.

Just as it is in the Torah, so too we are tested every single day. These tests do not involve our math or vocabulary skills. We are tested on our commitment to the mitzvot, and all that they represent. Do we care for the stranger, the orphan, the widow and the poor? If so, how do we demonstrate it to God and the world? When we see someone in need of assistance, do we come to their aid? Do we hold the door for someone? Do we say “please” and “thank you”?

If we are to take God’s commandments seriously, then yes, we will be tested every day as to our worthiness. The prelude to Tikkun Olam, repair of the world, is Tikkun Atzmeinu, repairing ourselves. Before we can craft our lofty goals of making the world a better place, we have to craft goals to make ourselves the best possible version we can be. Only then are we prepared to take on the challenge of Tikkun Olam. That preparation is daily, as embodied in the tests that we face, which answer the question for ourselves and God: Am I ready to do Tikkun Olam?

We don’t have to get a perfect score every time, for no human is perfect. We are expected to do our best, whatever that score might be. Regularly doing our best qualifies us to do Tikkun Olam. Self-diagnosis, recognizing when we didn’t do our best, why that might be, and what we could have done differently, must be part of our daily routines. In our striving to be our best, we have to constantly fine tune the equipment so that it is in optimal working condition.

On November 11, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Americans throughout the land give pause to extend gratitude to those who have served in our Armed Forces. It is because of their service, and sacrifice, that we are able to enjoy the freedoms that we do at home. If you see a veteran, take a moment to stop and thank the veteran for their service. If you, my reader, are a veteran, please accept my gratitude for your service. And yes, Veteran’s Day is also a test, a test of our gratitude. Will you pass this test?


Thu, June 1 2023 12 Sivan 5783