Avos d'Rebbi Nassan* 33 recounts that corresponding to Avraham's ten tests,1 Hashem performed ten miracles for the Bnei Yisrael in Mitzraim2 and struck the Mitzriim with ten makkos, and likewise He performed ten miracles for them at the Yam Suf3 and struck the Mitzriim with ten makkos at the Yam Suf.4

Do any of the commentators explain the connection between Avraham's ten tests and these other lists of tens? Is there a 1:1 comparison between each of Avraham's tests and one of the miracles performed for his descendants in each circumstance?

*Henceforth ADRN

1The list presented in ADRN appears to be: (1) the command to go to Eretz Yisrael; (2) the ensuing famine there; (3) sending away Yishmael; (4) Akeidas Yitzchak; (5) sending away Hagar; (6) Sarah's abduction(s); (7) the war with the four kings; (8) the nevuah at the Bris Bein HaBesarim that his children would be slaves; (9) Ur Kasdim; and (10) Bris Milah.

2That is, that the Bnei Yisrael were shielded from the Makkos (Bartenura to Avos 5:4), and likewise in the next clause.

3The list presented in ADRN is that Hashem made the ocean into (1) tunnels, (2) a plain, (3) divided parts, (4) mortar, (5) a desert, (6) fragments, (7) rocks, (8) dry land, (9) walls, and (10) flasks/fresh water, and it brings pesukim for each of them.

4ADRN subsequently explains that Hashem used ten "weapons" against the Mitzriim, measure for measure to the weapons they used against the Yisraelim, and brings pesukim for each of them. They are: (1) a thundering voice; (2) a bow; (3) arrows; (4) swords; (5) lances; (6) shields; (7) bucklers; (8) spears; (9) hail; (10) fiery coals. I'm not sure how many were literal and how many were metaphorical.

  • There is an English translation of ADRN, which I sometimes use. That translation frequently refers to 2 mefarshim. Offhand, I don't recall what he uses, but, I'll see if I can locate that book during Shabbat, B"N. I gather these mefarshim should be available in a good Bet Midrash.
    – DanF
    Apr 7, 2017 at 14:39
  • @DanF I was working out of the Artscroll, which only contains the straight Hebrew, the translation, and a few commentaries in the footnotes that didn't help much. I'll see if I can track down an Avodah Zarah over Yom Tov to check the Masechtos Ketanos in the back.
    – DonielF
    Apr 7, 2017 at 15:18
  • The Midrash Says, when bringing down this Midrash (Shemos p. 104), just says it was in the merit of withstanding the ten tests. It doesn't say if there's any correlation.
    – DonielF
    Apr 7, 2017 at 21:04

1 Answer 1


See the commentary of Likutei Sichos on chapter 5 of Pirkei Avos, with these specific snippets from chabad.org:

Chapter Five: The world was created by means of ten [Divine] utterances — According to the principles of Torah numerology, five represents a level of G‑dliness above all limitation,1 while ten reflects the structure of our finite, material world. The intent of this chapter of Pirkei Avos is to reveal the G‑dliness which transcends all limitation within the context of our material existence.

(Sefer HaSichos 5751, Vol. II, p. 772) So first of all, the whole chapter, including the parts about Avraham and the miracles of the sea later, are to teach us how to serve Hashem beyond limitation, yet within limiation, see further.

ג - עֲשָׂרָה נִסְיוֹנוֹת נִתְנַסָּה אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ וְעָמַד בְּכֻלָּם, לְהוֹדִיעַ כַּמָּה חִבָּתוֹ שֶׁל אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ.
3. Our Patriarch Avraham was tested with ten tests, and he withstood them all to show how great was our Patriarch Avraham’s love

[for G‑d].

Ten tests — As mentioned, the number ten reflects the full scope of our personal potential. Avraham showed his devotion to G‑d with every dimension of his being.

Ten tests... to show how great was our Patriarch Avraham’s love [for G‑d] — The purpose of the tests which Avraham underwent — and of the challenges which his descendants, each and every member of the Jewish people, confronts — is to bring into expression a more powerful love for G‑d [beyond limitations], as it is written:13 “G‑d... is testing you to see if you love G‑d... with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Our Patriarch Avraham — Avraham is described as אבינו, our Patriarch (literally “our father”). Just as a father bequeaths his estate to his descendants, Avraham bequeathed his spiritual legacy to the entire Jewish people. His spiritual legacy empowers each of us, endowing us with the strength to withstand the challenges we face in our divine service.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Chukas, 5737)

So this part goes together with the intro, that Avraham serving Hashem beyond all limitations of reason was a lesson for us all to serve him that way (that's the same idea of serving him in an unlimited way within the confines of nature).


ד - עֲשָׂרָה נִסִּים נַעֲשׂוּ לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ בְּמִצְרַיִם, וַעֲשָׂרָה עַל הַיָּם, עֶשֶׂר מַכּוֹת הֵבִיא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא

עַל הַמִּצְרִיִּים, בְּמִצְרַיִם, וְעֶשֶׂר עַל הַיָּם. עֲשָׂרָה נִסְיוֹנוֹת נִסּוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ אֶת הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בַּמִּדְבָּר, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וַיְנַסּוּ אֹתִי זֶה עֶשֶׂר פְּעָמִים וְלֹא שָׁמְעוּ בְּקוֹלִי. 4. Ten miracles were performed for our forefathers in Egypt, and ten at the Sea. The Holy One, blessed be He, brought ten plagues upon the Egyptians in Egypt and ten at the Sea. Our forefathers subjected the Holy One, blessed be He, to ten trials in the desert, as it is stated: “By now they have tested Me ten times, and did not heed My voice.”14

Ten miracles were performed for our forefathers — Pirkei Avos is intended to teach us pious conduct — how to serve G‑d beyond the measure of the law. What lesson in pious conduct can we learn from these points of history?

This question can be answered as follows: The fact that G‑d wrought miracles for the Jews in Egypt made the people aware of their true identity. Although they were still in exile, the miracles made them conscious that they were G‑d’s servants, rather than slaves of the Egyptians. ** This is also true today. Although we are still in exile, we are G‑d’s servants, and subject to no other authority. **Our commitment to Him need not be limited in any way. On the contrary, just as miracles represent a departure from nature, our commitment can rise above ordinary mortal constraints.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Nitzavim, 5738)

So as we can see, the entire idea of the whole chapter, and Avraham's tests, is to teach us how to serve Hashem beyond our limitations, and the same idea is expressed in the miracles, which are an expression of Hashem that's beyond nature.

So the connection: both the "10" miracles of Egypt (which ten, as mentioend, represents how Hashem is complete even in this world) and the "10" tests if Avraham, both of them mentioned in chapter 5 which, as mentioned above, represents how Hasem is totally removed from the world (see the Sicha there for sources explaining why), are to teach us, and are inherently related to, the idea of serving Hashem beyond all limitations, but still bring that into the limitations of the world, like how to plagues wer miracles, beyond all limitation, but it affected them in a way that even in the limitations of exile, they were able to perceive Hashem, and the same is true of the 10 trials of Avraham, that Avraham showed that he served Hashem with his full human (/even natural) potential.

So: the 10 tests of Avraham = Avraham's full (even natural) potential, and the 10 miracles in Egypt = Hashem's infinite revelation in a way that made even the Jews in exile still, aware of the greatness of Hashem.

Both of the ideas represent how Hashem permeates even our natural/limited being.

  • Perhaps I wasn't clear in my question; I was looking for specifically a 1:1 comparison between the tests and the miracles; that is, since Avraham upheld the test of cutting off the Orlah, his children merited the Yam Suf being cut into several parts, for instance (I just made that up).
    – DonielF
    Feb 28, 2019 at 21:40
  • @DonielF Yes se ethe answer, it discusses the connection betewen them, although IDK if they merited them BECAUSE Avraham withehld the tests; but the reason WHY there were 10 tests and ten miracles is the same
    – Yaakov5777
    Feb 28, 2019 at 21:43
  • If I'm reading your answer correctly, all you address is the general connection between all of them being exactly 10, not if there's a specific connection between each individual test and one of the miracles. Also, the Braisa I cite in the OP clearly states that there's a specific connection between the lists.
    – DonielF
    Feb 28, 2019 at 21:44
  • @DonielF its not that one was a direct cause from the other, they were both caused from he same, different reason
    – Yaakov5777
    Feb 28, 2019 at 21:44
  • @DonielF and that's why there are other connections as well, as mentioned in your list, because they both are from the same source
    – Yaakov5777
    Feb 28, 2019 at 21:45

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