|Pirkei Avot 5: The Voice of Torah: Avraham’s Ten Tests|
|Written by Rabbi Chaim Goldberger|
With ten tests was Avraham Avinu tested and he withstood them all; this was to make known the love (for God) of Avraham Avinu. (Avot 5:4)
1) Why does the Mishnah write "Avraham Avinu" twice. This is awkward; why not use a pronoun?
2) Later the Mishnah will speak of "ten daily miracles in the Bait Hamikdash " and "ten things created the first Friday afternoon". In both cases, it goes on to provide the list of the ten items. Why does the Mishnah not do so here?
3) Why do we need this Mishnah at all? While this tells us an important truth about Avraham, Pirkei Avot is supposed to be a manual for our own self-development, not a compendium of information about our great forebears. What is this Mishnah coming to teach us?lt;/span>
Often, we find ourselves facing decisions with difficulty. The difficulty is that we would like to take action, but we are unsure of the purity of our motives. Maybe this is not something we are spiritually ready to undertake; maybe we want to do it only because we wish to feel important or accepted. How can we know?
The Mishnah informs us. We can learn about our true level of devotion from the tests we have withstood. Avraham learned about his level of love for God by observing the tests he underwent. To have passed each successive tests would have demanded an increasing amount of love. Having passed each test, Avraham knew he possessed at least that much love. If subsequent to a test he would have been faced with a decision in which he might have questioned his motives, he would know he was not fooling himself about the validity of his loving motivation if he had already withstood a temptation demanding that amount of love in order to resist.
But that was Avraham. From him we learn the principle. Next, we need to apply it to ourselves. So the Mishnah speaks without a pronoun:
Avraham Avinu passed ten tests, to make known the love inside Avraham Avinu. (Chaim Goldberger, on the other hand, will note the tests that Chaim Goldberger has passed; so as to make known the love inside Chaim Goldberger.)
Now we know why the Mishnah declines to list what Avraham's ten tests were. The Mishnah's purpose is not to tell us of the greatness of Avraham; rather it is to teach us a tool, learned from Avraham, that we can use to identify the greatness within us.