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Rising to the Challenge

By Rabbi Yehonatan Salem

At the beginning of the perashah, the Torah instructs the high priest to light the menorah – candelabrum every evening. One of its lights would miraculously stay alight constantly, thereby giving testimony that G-d dwells amongst His people. The verse (Tetzaveh 27:20) writes that the olives would be crushed by hand, and the first drop of oil from each olive would be used for lighting the menorah.

Although the Jewish People are compared to various pleasant- tasting or smelling fruits, which symbolize the beautiful traits and praises of our nation, the olive nevertheless, bears the strongest resemblance to us. The oil of the olive can only be extracted, when it is crushed or ground. The oil within an olive is not able to be self- extracted. Only through external pressure can its special oil be extracted. So, too, the inner essence of every Jew is beautiful, but in order for our beauty of character to shine forth, we need to exert ourselves in the learning of Torah and avodat Hashem – service of G-d, in order to bring it out.

Preferably, we should become enthused, of our own accord, with the study and application of Torah and mitzvot, thereby cultivating our potential. However, often we also need external factors to cause us to rise to the challenge and succeed. When we as a nation are persecuted or exiled from place to place, this causes us to return to G-d and consequently, for Him to answer our prayers.

All the afflictions that we endure help to bring out our generosity, sensitivity and other exemplary character traits.

In life, most people find themselves preoccupied with a range    of difficulties. Often, just having overcome one hurdle, they find themselves plunged into the next one. If not financial difficulties, they may have health problems, relationship dilemmas, or concerns about their children. In truth, however large or small a worry may be, it tends to take over a person’s entire being. Even just changing a tyre or having a dental appointment, makes a person become completely preoccupied with it. We must remember,  however,  that all these disturbances or difficulties are not sent by Hashem as objectives in themselves, but as a means to extract our true essential beauty, as we draw closer to G-d by “rising to the challenge.”.

It is common for people to “wish away” their trials; yet, this is not the correct outlook. Trials are not pointless, they are there to be utilised as a springboard for inner growth and are, in fact, to our strongest advantage. When we use trials as opportunities for self- introspection and improvement, we come out feeling spiritually- fulfilled, having used them for their intended purpose. Recently, when giving a class to students of marriageable age, I advised them not to be despondent about not having yet found a suitable partner. Rather, they should utilize it as an opportunity to come closer to G-d through prayer, as this situation will probably never return.

Next time we feel overwhelmed or frustrated by a problem, let us draw ourselves closer to G-d and consider how He wants us to face it, thereby maximising the opportunity of this challenge.

Shabbat shalom

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