Rabbi Mayer Twersky
Recognizing Opportunities for Growth
Avraham Avinu's life, a life of ascent to the highest level of avodas Hashem, was punctuated by nisyonos, trials. These two biographical facts, the amazing trajectory of Avraham Avinu's life, and his underlying nisyonos, are integrally and intimately related. The medrash explains that the purpose of a nisayon is to help a person actualize his latent potential. Human nature is such that even highly-motivated righteous individuals need the challenge of a nisayon to fully realize and actualize their potential.
Accordingly, we appreciate that Avraham Avinu's greatness owed to his successful response to the challenge of nisyonos. It is crucial, however, to recognize another component of Avraham Avinu's self-growth. Hakdosh Baruch Hu did not announce to Avraham Avinu that he was about to be tested. The passuk in chumash introduces the story of the akeida by telling us that Hashem tested Avraham. But Hashem did not provide Avraham Avinu with that information. Part of the test is to recognize the challenge on one's own.
Often we mistakenly think that if we were given tests, we too could and would respond. We too could and would grow by leaps and bounds with nisyonos. But, of course, this train of thought is mistaken. We are surrounded by challenges conducive to our growth but fail to recognize them as such. Having to interact with a difficult family member can be a nisayon for tikkun hammidos (character refinement). Unemployment is a nisayon for bitachon (trust and faith in Hashem) and an opportunity for extra learning. And so forth.
We can pattern our lives after Avraham Avinu if we see circumstances as they truly are - a test, an opportunity for growth.