DON’T CONFORM

G-d told to Abraham “Leave your land, your birthplace and your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you.”

DON’T CONFORM FOR THE SAKE OF CONFORMING

We sometimes adopt the standards and absorb the culture of the time and place in which we live—“your land.” At a deeper level, we are influenced by our friends and neighbors—“your birthplace.” More deeply still, they are shaped by our parents and the family in which grew up—“your father’s house.”

I want you, says G-d to Abraham, to be different. Not for the sake of being different, but for the sake of starting something new: a religion that will not worship power and the symbols of power—for that is what idols really were and are. I want you, said G‑d, to “teach your children and your household afterward to follow the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.”

We make a mistake when we think of idols in terms of their physical appearance—statues, figurines, icons. In that sense, they belong to ancient times we have long outgrown. Instead, the right way to think of idols is in terms of what they represent. They symbolize power. That is what Ra was for the Egyptians, Baal for the Canaanites, Chemosh for the Moabites, Zeus for the Greeks, and missiles and bombs for terrorists and rogue states today.

Abraham is, without doubt, the most influential person who ever lived. Today he is claimed as the spiritual ancestor of 2.4 billion Christians, 1.6 billion Muslims and 13 million Jews, more than half the people alive today. Yet he ruled no empire, commanded no great army, performed no miracles and proclaimed no prophecy. He is the supreme example in all of history of influence without power.

Why? Because he was prepared to be different. As the sages say, he was called ha-ivri, “the Hebrew,” because “all the world was on one side and he was on the other.” Leadership, as every leader knows, can be lonely. Yet you continue to do what you have to do, because you know that the majority is not always right and conventional wisdom is not always wise. Dead fish go with the flow. Live fish swim against the current. So it is with conscience and courage. So it is with the children of Abraham. They are prepared to challenge the idols of the age.
(by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks)

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