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What Were You Chosen For?

April 18, 2020

Everyone struggles with something different.  Some have a hard time connecting to prayer, others find it difficult to focus in Torah study, some have conflict in relationships, and others struggle to make time for chesed.  The Vilna Gaon shares a life lesson that might make these struggles just a tad but more manageable.

The mishkan is finally open, and the priestly service is about to begin.  Rashi (Vayikra 9:7 “krav”), however, notes that Aharon, the Kohen Gadol who was supposed to lead the first service, was hesitant.  He was ashamed and afraid to come close to the mizbeach.  The commentaries explain that the mizbeach was a replacement or atonement for the golden calf, and Aharon felt guilty regarding his role in that episode.  For this reason, he was reluctant to step up to the mizbeach to commence the offerings.  It took some extra prodding and persuading from Moshe, as Rashi notes that Moshe finally told Aharon, “למה אתה בוש לכך נבחרת, why are you ashamed?  It is for this that you were chosen.”  Finally, Aharon relented, and the service began.

What does Moshe mean that “it is for this that you were chosen?”  What argument is he making?  The Vilna Gaon explains that a person’s greatness shines most through his dealings with struggle and temptation.  If one feels that he is begin given a very difficult challenge in life, perhaps that may be a sign from Hashem that overcoming this trial is precisely his life’s mission. 

There are many, but I’ll share two examples from Tanach.  Avraham was known as a man of chesed.  His home was always open, and he was a person who only wanted to give and share.  We can only imagine how difficult it was for him when he is asked to expel his son Yishmael from his own home.  Any passerby is welcomed in, and his own son is to be kicked out?!  He objects, but is instructed by Hashem follow Sarah’s guidance.  Not long after, Avraham is told to take his other son, his most beloved, Yitzchak, and slaughter him.  Why is Avraham, a man of chesed, constantly being tested in these ways?  Perhaps, although Avraham accomplished so much through his chesed, part of his greatness was only revealed in how he succeeded through these most difficult trials that went so against his essence.

Commentaries explain that Yonah was an inwardly focused individual.  He was one who was focused on self perfection, truth, and being upright.  The last thing he planned to do was travel to a city of sinners, try to inspire them to repent, and plead with Hashem to spare them.  And yet, it is precisely this that Hashem commands of him!  Because it’s in these moments where we are expected to do something unnatural or uncomfortable that our greatness can be revealed.

Aharon was a great tzadik, but felt remorse at how he handled the situation with the golden calf.  His natural inclination was to avoid anything golden calf related and just stick to areas where he had found more success.  But Moshe told him, no!  You weren’t chosen to do what’s easy!  It is precisely that which is difficult, and that which you’ve struggled with, that Hashem wants to see you involved with.  It is for this you were chosen!

Hashem never gives a test that we can’t handle, but that doesn’t mean that all of our challenges are easy.  In fact, if it seems that if Hashem gives you a difficult test that forces you to make decisions and changes in life that feel uncomfortable at first, maybe he is just helping you find your deepest and greatest potential!  Next time you face a very tough challenge, rather than letting it frustrate you, recognize that it may a great opportunity to let your best self shine through!

Shabbat shalom!

Rabbi Daniel Fox

Fri, September 29 2023 14 Tishrei 5784