Parashat Eikev

Friday, August 3, 2018 /22 Av, 5778
Parashat Eikev Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25

Sometimes, passing a test is actually failing. Let me explain…

Torah seems to have a number of tests, by which God challenged us to see if we were worthy. In Genesis, God sent Abraham to the mountaintop, seemingly to offer his son, Isaac, as a test of devotion.  Abraham apparently passed the test, as he was stopped with a knife in his hand – but I think he failed as he harmed Isaac and left us with a perplexing image.

Now, in Deuteronomy, Moses recalls our 40-year trek in the desert, and he states the following: “Remember the long way that ADONAI our God has made you travel in the wilderness these past forty years, that God might test you by hardships to learn what was in your hearts…” (Deut. 8:2)

Perhaps, if we had been more faithful to God early in our journey, and had not rebelled, we would not have spent 40 years in the wilderness. Yet, ultimately, we must have passed the test after forty years, for God did bring us to the Promised Land, after all.

Passing and failing are not so clear.

For us, today, do we find that hardships are tests of our resolve, or just sufferings along life’s journey? Do we see our trials as opportunities to strengthen our resolve, learn new lessons, demonstrate our commitments, or just as hurdles which we must endure?

Clearly, the voice of the spiritual journey would contend that we must benefit from our tests and hardships, and prove worth or growth.

And, such is the value of rethinking our tests. If we pass the test – whatever it might be – does it allow us the opportunity for reflection and review and growth, which failing it might generate? Wouldn’t failing be a richer and more rewarding opportunity? We certainly ought not relish our sufferings, and the Talmud discusses this at length, but we should relish the growth which comes with failing along the way.

Without our forty years of wandering, we never would have evolved into the people which we became.

Without synagogue transition, we wouldn’t have the opportunity for reflection and focus.

Without loss, we wouldn’t recognize gratitude.

Without pain, we wouldn’t appreciate joy.

There are some tests I’d rather fail, for in the failing, there is success, and passing.

Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Doug Kohn