This week’s Torah reading, Lech lecha, tells of the command given to Avraham to circumcise himself and his descendants. Although the bris has become the most widely observed mitzvah in the Jewish world, our Rabbis raise the fact that Avraham himself wasn’t convinced that performing the ritual was a wise decision.
Avraham had three close friends, Aner, Eshkol, and Mamrei. When Hashem commanded him to perform the bris, Avraham asked his colleagues for their advice.
Aner challenged him saying that in the aftermath of the procedure he would be vulnerable to attack. Eshkol was concerned that Avraham would isolate himself from the rest of the community by performing such a barbaric act; it would undermine Avraham’s mission of preaching monotheism. Mamrei, however, said he should follow Hashem’s command.
Although Avraham may have followed the advice of Mamrei, Eshkol was correct. Avraham, by circumcising himself, distinguished himself as different from the rest of society. This unique sign on his body told of a deeper difference that lay in his behaviour, his values, and his goals. This point of difference remains a point of contention; being Jewish means being different.
Being different doesn’t mean better than, and neither does it infer inferiority.
Being different means seeing a world created by Hashem where every person can contribute their unique set of skills and talents to the world in a way that no one else can.
As parents, we try to empathise with our children when they realise that they’re different. They feel the pain of being different. But being different is not something that should, or perhaps even can, be hidden. It’s also not something that needs to be promoted or publicised.
Being different demands, first and foremost, a recognition of that difference. Once acknowledged, we can then learn how to engage with ourselves, our community, and the world differently to others.
Some differences, like that of Avraham, are chosen, whereas others come to us naturally. The common feature is that those points of difference should be embraced.
We should support our children in accepting their own differences, without fearing them. Through that support we may give them the courage and curiosity to embrace their uniqueness and discover how they can make a positive difference in the world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rabbi Gad Krebs is the College Rabbi at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.