Similar, But Different

A lot depends on our similarities. Unless we worked the same way, all designs would fail, medicine would be ineffective and human society would become impossible. 

Yet we also affirm that each individual is unique. No two people look, think or act exactly alike. Both human sameness and difference are profoundly true.

The Rabbis compared faces to minted coins. A king of flesh and blood, they said, stamps coins and they all look alike. The Divine stamps us and each is different. We are all still faces, but none is a copy.

Part of the wisdom of living is to keep each message in mind when you encounter the other. When you see a throng of people and everyone looks alike, remember that each is different. As the Talmud puts it, when you see a crowd of Israelites, bless God who knows secrets. Everyone has his or her own secrets and uniqueness.

Yet when you are dealing with a single person, remember that each has much in common. We all have fears and dreams and difficulties and sensitivities. It is the gift of our sameness that enables us to have empathy and create community. And it is the gift of our uniqueness that permits every human being to learn from one another.

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.
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