During the height of WWII, a certain Polish rabbi fled from his native country to relative safety in London, England. As the Nazis bombed the British capital daily, a city-wide blackout was put into effect, to darken the area so as not to expose any targets to the trigger-happy pilots of the feared Luftwaffe.

This posed a problem to the learned rabbi: How would he study Torah throughout the evening as he was accustomed? He was advised about blackout curtains—thick, strong drapes to hang over the windows and block out all light. They could be purchased at the shop just around the corner.

Upon entering, the shopkeeper asked him, “I have two questions for you: How close to the window is your lightbulb, and how many watts is it?” The rabbi seemed mystified, so the shopkeeper explained: “The closer to the window your bulb is, and the stronger it is, the thicker your curtains must be.”

Back home, the rabbi announced, “I just learned an incredible lesson! When the darkness is the most intense, when the curtains seem to be absolutely impenetrable, that means the lightbulb on the other side is that much brighter and that much closer.”

G‑d is Testing You

Our parshah devotes a considerable amount of space to the saga of the false prophet. The Torah warns that snake-oil salesmen will eventually arise, and will even present miracles and other tricks to lure people into believing them, and yet, we must do our best to ignore them and stay loyal and devoted to G‑d.

It is in this context that the Torah tells us:

You shall not heed the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream; for the L‑rd, your G‑d, is testing you, to know whether you really love the L‑rd, your G‑d, with all your heart and with all your soul.1

It’s all a test. Precisely because the false prophet gives off a veneer of legitimacy, that is why it's such a test to withstand.

But the words, and really, the entire concept, is puzzling. When you, a human being of flesh and blood, want to test someone’s loyalty, it’s because you genuinely don’t know the answer. Lack of knowledge and information is why people test each other.

But G‑d doesn’t lack any knowledge, obviously! G‑d knows if you, me, and your neighbor are loyal to Him, so why would He need to send a prophet to test us and find out what He surely already knows?

For You to Know

The test is not for G‑d. It’s for you.

When the verse states, “For G‑d is testing you to know,” it’s not for G‑d to know anything. It’s for you to know G‑d.

This interpretation cuts right to the heart of life itself. “Why is my life so challenging?” people ask. It’s a tough question, and if there was an easy answer, many authors, mentors, and teachers would be long out of business.

But there isn’t an easy answer. People go through tremendous challenges; deep, dark struggles that make them tear their hair out in pain. There is no shortage of grief, struggle, and darkness in this world, and when they come up in your life like a tidal wave, it can be outrageously unnerving.

“What should I do? Why is this happening to me?” you scream into the night.

This one’s mother is dying from cancer, that one just lost her job, and the next one is in the middle of a nasty divorce. “Why, oh why? Why do these things happen?” each one cries. “What am I supposed to make of this misery? What does G‑d want from me?”

A Testy Packaging

There aren’t any easy answers.

But here’s something to think about: G‑d sends you a test for one reason, and one reason only—for you to overcome it and discover the treasure inside.

According to the Kabbalistic masters, G‑d has different ways of relating to this world. There are more obvious, relatable ways, such as the natural order of things that we’re all accustomed to. The sun rises, you wake up, your house is still there, and your friends still like you.

All these natural and typical things are symptoms of a level of G‑dliness that inhabits the world on the world’s terms (relatively speaking).

But then there are parts of G‑d that absolutely don’t relate to this world. If you can imagine G‑d as He is for Himself, without bothering to “think about” a world or the entire concept of Creation, well, that space is far loftier than to be able to relate to our mundane, worldly reality.

From time to time, G‑d wants to give you and me some of that, a slice of that tremendous energy that is well beyond anything we’re accustomed to. So He sends it in a counterintuitive package, for it is precisely something so unconventional that can host something so powerful.

And so, it presents itself in your life as a challenge. A dark, dark test that stretches your capabilities to the limit. But, deep inside that test, buried within the struggle, is something incredibly powerful and remarkably deep.

So, here’s how it works: You’re tested. It’s hard. No, not just hard, it’s insanely difficult. And the entire point of the test is for you to overcome it and expose what it really has in store for you: a potent force of G‑dliness that will catapult you to something fabulous.

Don’t Give Up

So, the test is for you to know. For you to discover just how much you believe, to go on a mining expedition and find out how much you’re actually capable of. G‑d already knows. Now, go ahead and discover it yourself.

Is your life dark? Very dark? Are you being tested every day, multiple times a day?

Remember: On the other side of that test is a bright, bright lightbulb. And it’s very close, right there on the other side. If you think that your life is just too dark, well, then know that the lightbulb for you is even brighter and even closer.

Peek behind the blackout curtains.2