Think Different

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Chayei Sarah Differentness v2.1

“Dare to be different.”

The last words Rebekah hears from her family are: “let thy seed possess the gate of those who hate them.” Then she is off to marry Isaac.

The final prophecy Abraham hears from Heaven includes the words: “thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.” Then he and Isaac go home.

Interesting observation, right? But what does it mean?

Abraham also made Eliezer promise to find a wife for Isaac from his family in Haran. Eliezer follows his orders, but if the primary criteria for Isaac’s wife was kindness, why would her hometown matter?

I think that Abraham heard something in that final prophecy that influenced him here and the Torah is hinting this to us by using such similar language for Rebekah’s send off.

The Jewish people will “possess the gate of our enemies or those who hate us.” The gate is the entrance to the city. We will be at the gate but we will not be the only or even majority people in the city itself. Rather, we are to lead, influence, and engage with the people of the city from a position of strength. We are to own the gates of their city without assimilating and without converting the entire city to our religion.

You need a lot of strength to stand tall and be proud of the things that make you different. If you are born into a society where you are not automatically identified by your differences, you may never learn how to possess the city gate of your enemy.

Abraham heard this and instructed Eliezer to find a wife for Isaac outside Canaan. She would be different than the rest of the people in her city. She may have been comfortably conformist in Haran, but that was no longer possible in Canaan. This would force her to learn how to stand tall and take pride in her differences. Abraham was orchestrating the fulfillment of the blessing.

There is an instinctual discomfort with the things that make us different than societal norms. People spend their entire lives trying to hide their differences. We often find differences to be abrasive or thorny. The blessing to Abraham and Rebekah said to stand tall and own our differences because those are our strength. What seems like a quirk or bug, can be a virtue and a feature.

Thorns on a rose bush may seem abrasive, but they really are the thing that protects the rose. Differences may seem abrasive, but if we learn to own them, they become our strength.

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink is the founder of shulontheinternet.com.
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