A Rose Among ThornsOctober 23, 2013 - 5:00 am
“‘Drink, my lord,’ she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave Him a drink. After she had given Him a drink, she said, ‘I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.’”—Genesis 24:18–19
The Torah portion for this week, Chayei Sarah, which means “the life of Sarah,” is from Genesis 23:1—25:18, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 1:1–31.
Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher recently made headlines for the inspirational speech that he gave at the Teen Choice Awards. Among the things he said was this: “The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart and being thoughtful and being generous.”
Jewish Sages would agree with Kutcher’s core message — kindness is beautiful.
The Sages liken the matriarch Rebekah to a “rose among thorns.” She merits that title because of the great act of kindness she performed for Abraham’s servant. When the servant encountered Rebekah at the drinking well, he was tired and parched with thirst. Rebekah not only offered to draw water for him, but she offered to draw water for his camels as well.
The Sages note that this was an almost super-human feat for a young girl. They calculate that she would have had to make dozens of trips to the well to provide enough water for ten camels — that’s about 140 gallons each! The fact that she was able to do so indicates that this was not the first time that Rebekah had gone to the well for others. To have that strength and ability, Rebekah must have shared her kindness with countless other strangers. That, say the Sages, is what made her beautiful – like a rose among thorns.
Thorns assert themselves. They protrude outward and prick anyone who comes near them. A rose, on the other hand, is soft and gentle. It spends its life opening up, offering those who come close a gift of beautiful fragrance and a pleasing sight. The rose and the thorn are two visual aids for understanding what it means to be a person of kindness or a self-centred individual. Selfishness is closed to others, sharp, and ugly. Kindness is open to others, giving, and beautiful.
We live in a world where selfishness reigns. People are far more focused on what they can get than on what they can give. In this me-centred world, life can get a little thorny, people are pricked and bleed. Our mission is to be “the rose among the thorns,” to be a bastion of kindness in a sea of selfishness and a true reflection of God’s love. We need to offer hugs and smiles, food and warmth. We need to give generously and love passionately.
Nothing in the world is more beautiful than that.