Being Mainstream - A Value or not?

Rabbi Reuben Mann - Dean, Masoret Institute

It is interesting that some Jews are so concerned that certain of there brethren "seem" to be different. They aren't "mainstream". Of course the question is: different from who? From the true Torah authorities and the correct way of doing things according to the genuine masorah; or different from the masses whose practice does not reflect the highest level of Torah observance.

25 years ago a person who didn't smoke, ate correctly and exercised regularly was considered very different.Would one automatically deligitamise a person simply because what he did was "different"?

What is the intelligent reaction to something that appears to be different? Do you simply reject it because it is different or do you study it carefully to discover it's real nature? What if it makes sense, more sense than that which is not different? What if it is a medical treatment and it is different, but it works much better than the treatment which is not different- which one would you choose? What would you say about a businessman who did things completely different from everyone else and was enormously successful; what would you call him? A genius, of course.

But let's look at this from the vantage point of G-d. How does the Creator view the question of "being different"? Who did G-d choose to be the founder of his nation ? A nation whose essence is to be "muvdal mikal haamim" apart and DIFFERENT from the nations- if you have a problem being different then you deny your basic identity as a Jew.

Who did G-d choose to be the founder of his nation? Avraham haivri, ie. the entire world is on one side and Avraham is on the other. No one was more different than Avraham. There is no virtue in being different per se. but there is no virtue in being the same per se. G-d demands that we live in accordance with our G-d given instrument, the tzelem Elokim. To think clearly and arrive at objective truth and reject false ideas which are rooted on man's primitive and instinctual side. Unfortunately the latter approach is the way of most of the world and hence the true person of thought will always be rare and different. (See Tehillim 14:2, 3) Thus G-d endorsed Avraham because he was different in the correct way, and not in a crazy, emotional way.

What would one's reaction have been to Avraham - would he have been among the few who had the courage to live by chochma and thus be different, or would one have succumbed to his weaknesses and insecurities and idolatrous need to find comfort and a security in being together with the masses?