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Embracing Challenges

Thursday, 1 March, 2012 - 11:00 am

One of my most awkward moments in yeshiva was when one of the Rabbis called me over and asked me about a subject matter I was not studying at the time. To me it seemed like a typical “gotcha” question; a tough Jewish trivia challenge at which I was bound to fail. Indeed, I was caught off guard and had no clue as to the answer.

The Rabbi sensed my frustration. Patiently, he sat down and explained to me, “I only asked you this question because I believed in you. I wanted to see you shine. I wouldn’t have asked it had I not held out hope that you would respond correctly. That would have given me the greatest nachas.”

His sincere explanation has stayed with me throughout life. Often, we look at challenges as adversaries. Truthfully, they are usually put in place to bring out the best in us.


When the Jewish people were challenged with destruction by the evil Haman in the Purim story, they easily could have crumbled under the pressure. Instead, Mordechai gathered 22,000 Jewish children in the public square to pray to the Almighty. This act of faith, defiance and self-sacrifice was instrumental in G-d’s annulment of the harsh decree.

In fact, not only were the Jews spared from annihilation – their courage and commitment was instrumental in the eventual rebuilding of the second Beit HaMikdash in Jerusalem.


This week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, instructs the Jewish people to kindle the menorah every day in the Mishkan and the Beit HaMikdash. The opening verse states, “And you shall command the children of Israel, and they shall take to you pure olive oil, crushed for lighting, to kindle the flame continually.”

The Sages of the Talmud focus on the words “crushed for lighting.” What is the Torah adding with these words? Halachic implications aside, the Rabbis understand these words to be a clear spiritual message:

“Just as the olive yields oil only when it is pounded, so are man's greatest potentials realized only under the pressure of adversity.”


I may have failed to answer the Rabbi’s question, but I did succeed in learning one of the greatest lessons – one that has remained with me and empowered me throughout my life.

Comments on: Embracing Challenges

Rivka Avraham wrote...

Thank you Rabbi, It is very true. All through life so far its been after overcoming obstacles that is what has helped me feel more empowered. A diamond is made of coal and it is through enormous pressure that it begins to shine.