What Does God Want From Me Now?
In this week’s Torah reading (17:1), God asks of Avraham Avinu (our patriarch Abraham) to walk in front of Him and be “complete.” What do these commandments mean? The Sforno interprets them to mean that Avraham should seek out at every point in life what it is that God wants from him, and acquire, as much as possible, completion of good character.
In a similar manner, Rashi, in his interpretation, says that God is requesting of Avraham to cling to serving Him, and be complete in passing all the challenging spiritual tests he will face. Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz adds (Vol. 3, ma’amar 103) that the deeper meaning of Rashi is that by clinging to God in all situations in life, one will pass all his tests, and this makes a person complete.
This attitude, says the Chofetz Chaim (Shem Olam, part 2, chapter 10), wasn’t just meant for Avraham, but is incumbent upon every Jew to follow. The Chofetz Chaim says that every Jew is a servant of God, every moment of his life. In every situation, and in everything a person does, God expects of him to behave in a certain manner.
Every moment a person is alive, he has a mission to serve God by conducting himself in the way he should in that situation. In every situation a person finds himself, he is obligated to think, “What does God want from me now? Am I being careful not to transgress anything prohibited by the Torah? Am I concentrating on my own interests or am I focused on serving God?” This is why we were created. We were created to fulfill God’s will in every situation we are placed in, throughout our lives.
I Never Signed Up for This!
Often, when we are faced with challenges, we resent them and feel no interest in the tests presented. We envy the lives other people are leading, and feel that we deserve to have a different job in life, instead of overcoming the challenges we have. We feel like we never “signed up” for these difficulties, and we do not deserve them. However, we are taught, that in fact, we did “sign up” for the way our lives are (see Sha’arei Orah, Gate six, by Rabbi Yosef ben Avrohom Gikatlia, and Rabeinu B’chaye Deuteronomy, 22:8).
Before a person is born, he is shown in Heaven what his life will be like, from beginning to end. This includes all the suffering he will endure, and the various situations in which he will be placed in life, with all the details included. And every person gives his consent before his life begins. We willingly accept the way our lives will be, with all the challenges we will face, before our lives begin. Our lives are our mission which we have accepted upon ourselves, and now, we must fulfill that mission.
Please Send Me Back With One Arm!
The Chofetz Chaim gave a parable which drives this point home. A righteous Torah scholar died, and was brought in front of the Heavenly Court for judgement. He was found to be a virtuous person, but he had one flaw. When someone got on his nerves, he would hit him. A debate broke out in Heaven about what to do. He could be given the option of reincarnation, and return to the physical world to amend what he had done. But that was dangerous. There is no guarantee that he won’t make the same mistake again.
Therefore, it was decided that the best option would be to send him to hell, to get cleansed from his sins, and afterwards, he would merit his portion in paradise. But as he was being led to the gates of hell, he became terrified, and begged to be allowed to return to the physical world to atone for his behavior. In order to make sure he did not hit people again, he asked to be born missing his right arm. This was not a simple request, but in the end, Heaven relented and granted his wish. But then, when he grew up, he started to complain about his missing arm and resented it bitterly his entire life, while he was the one who begged to be born this way! And now, his whole life, he’s complaining about it!
Let’s Pass the Tests We Signed Up For!
Regardless of whether a person actually asked for his difficult situations in life or not, his soul agreed to it and accepted the course his life will take. Now, our job is to do whatever God wants of us in every situation, with whatever circumstances are involved. This is the mission we signed up for. Every person “signed up” for his job of serving God in accordance with the course of life which was set up for him. Instead of resenting your challenges, take advantage of them and figure out how you can best serve God in every given situation. This is the job that was custom-made for you, which you undertook to accomplish. Just dreading our difficulties is a waste of life!
Even when situations are difficult, every moment of a person’s life, he should ask himself, “What does God want of me now in this situation?” In every situation you are in, God has a mission for you. With this attitude, every moment in our lives will be filled with greatness. Every challenge is a test designed for us with a mission to pass the test by acting the way God wants us to, and God is waiting for you to pass that test.
By Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber firstname.lastname@example.org