We initially addressed different types of nisyonot, what are their purposes and if everyone is given tests. We then discussed six purposes of nisyonot. This essay explores the nature of tests for tzadikim in contrast to those for “everyone.”
Three Mashalim (Analogies), Tests for Tzadikim (Righteous) Vs. Everyone
Midrashim with the Three Mashalim
Bereshit Rabba (32:3) tells us:
“Hashem tests the tzadik, but He hates the soul of the rasha (evil one) and the lover of violence.”
The craftsman does not test defective vessels because they cannot withstand even a single blow without breaking. And which ones does He check? The strong vessels — even if he would bang on them many times, they wouldn’t break. Similarly, G-d does not test the wicked but only the righteous…
When a flax worker knows that his flax is good, [he knows that] the more he beats it the more it improves and changes. And when he knows that the flax is bad, [he knows that] it will not be able to withstand even a single blow without breaking. Similarly, G-d does not test the wicked but only the righteous…
When a person has two bulls, one of which is strong and the other weak, upon which one does he place the yoke? Isn’t it on the strong one? Similarly G-d tests only the tzadikim.
Also Bereshit Rabba (Parshat Noach — 32:3), Bereshit Rabba (Parshat Noach — 34:2), Bereshit Rabba (Parshat Vayera — 55:2), Shir HaShirim (2:35), Medrash Tehillim (Socher Tov #11), Yalkut Shimoni — Tehillim (247/654).
The Meforshim (commentaries) discuss these medrashim —
The concept of these three mashalim (analogies) is to teach us that a nisayon has three different aspects. A nisayon could be for the sake of the tester — the one being tested — or for the onlookers. And since these medrashim tell us that Hashem tests only the tzadik, they bring mashalim which are fitting specifically for a tzadik to be tested.
The mashal of the vessels, where the good one is hit, is not to improve it, but rather to see how strong it is. This is for the sake of the buyers who see that the merchandise is good [i.e., for publicity]. The righteousness of the tzadik needs to be completely expressed in terms of midat hadin (the quality of justice), and not remain merely in potential. The tzadikim are evaluated and tested so that people will know their accomplishments, and why Hashem gave them benefit. This is also [so to speak] for the sake of Hashem, the Tester — to publicize His love, without any suspicion that He was [unfairly] favoring the tzadik, G-d forbid. This is the matter of Avraham and requires the nisayon to be on a mitzvat asei (positive commandment), so that others will see what a wondrous thing he actually did, like the Akeidah, to fulfill the mitzvat asei.
The mashal of the flax, where it is struck, is not to see how strong it is, but rather to improve it and fix it. Through the banging, it becomes white and pure. With this nisayon, which Hashem uses to test the tzadik, He will bring yissurim shel ahavah (difficulties from love) upon him to cleanse and purify his soul. This nisayon is for the sake of the person himself. His actions should improve through the nisyonot which he stood up to, to purify and prepare him in terms of his avodat Hashem (service of G-d).
This will remove impurities of the yetzer hara (negative inclination) from him, to purify him, like one purifies silver. This could [even] involve bringing him to [a situation where he may be tempted to] transgress, and then beginning a war between his yetzer hatov (positive inclination) and his yetzer hara (negative inclination). In his righteousness he will be able to conquer the yetzer hara.
This essay should be l’zechut ul’iluy nishmat Ruchama Rivka, a”h, bat Asher Zevulun.
Rabbi Asher Resnick serves as a senior lecturer at Aish HaTorah’s Executive Learning Center, and is a senior training lecturer for Aish’s Rabbinical Ordination program. As a close student of Rav Noach Weinberg, zt”l, he developed a special expertise in addressing fundamental issues in Judaism, as well as in bringing classical texts to life. As a bereaved parent, Rabbi Resnick’s extensive writings on loss, suffering and trauma provide a sensitive Jewish perspective on coping with these fundamental life cycle issues. OlamiResources.com is happy to highlight several essays over the coming months featured on his website JewishClarity.com.