The Power of Teshuvah – Day 15
Destined for Greatness
In the course of traveling to sell his works, the Chofetz Chaim entered an inn in Vilna. A burly man picked up an entire roasted hen and stuffed it into his mouth, washing it down with a gulp of beer that left the stein nearly empty.
Upon learning that the man had been kidnaped as a child by the Russian army, the Chofetz Chaim walked over to the former soldier and shook his greasy hand. “I heard that you actually survived the army of Czar Nikolai and you remained a steadfast Jew! I only wish that I would be guaranteed a place like yours in the World to Come. You have withstood harsher tests than the sages of old!”
The soldier looked up from his plate with tears in his eyes. He leaned over and kissed the hand of the elderly sage. Then the Chofetz Chaim continued. “I am sure that if you get yourself a teacher and continue your life as a true Torah-observant Jew, there will be no one in this world more fortunate than you!”
Like the soldier in the above story, people are subjected to tremendously difficult tests in their lives. Yet we can draw the strength to meet these challenges from the knowledge that God does not impose trials that are beyond our capacity.
In fact, when we take a step in the right direction, Hashem gives us what we need to ultimately succeed. “One who comes to purify himself (ba l’taheir) receives siyata d’Shmaya — Divine assistance, and without Divine assistance it is impossible to withstand the evil inclination.” As the Talmud states, “In the way that a person wants to go, he will be led.”
Every Jew can achieve spiritual greatness. In every nisayon, we can choose whether we will search out Hashem’s will or follow the dictates of other forces, such as greed, pleasure, social pressure, or status-seeking. If we are sent a specific challenge, that is a sign that we are able to withstand it and achieve greatness — a heightened spiritual level coming closer to Hashem, and eternal reward — by passing that test. All Heavenly trials are for the benefit of those being tested.
Greatness does not happen by chance. Our paradigm for spiritual greatness — our forefathers — illustrates that it is the product of a purposeful method. What is that method? What made our forefathers great? It was Heavenly test after Heavenly test, [which led to] growth after growth — the impetus for their growth and development were the Heavenly tests.
As Mesillas Yesharim teaches:
All that occurs in this world is to test man … there is no one that Hashem does not test. The wealthy individual — he is tested whether his hand will be open to poor people. And the test for the poor person is whether he can accept the afflictions of poverty and not become angry [at God].
When challenges arise, it is as if a heavenly spotlight suddenly shines on you, and a voice announces, “You’re on!” It is your opportunity to perform to your best ability, to make a name for yourself in Heaven that will shine for eternity.
Points to Ponder:
- Nisyonos — spiritual tests — are designed to bring out that potential.
- When a person faces a challenge and makes his choice based on God’s will, he passes the test and ascends to a greater spiritual level.
- This is true no matter where on the ladder a person starts.