“And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horse[emphasis added], his chariots, and his horsemen” (Exodus 14:23).
The medieval commentator Rashi asks, “Was there only one horse?” Obviously not. He explains the deeper message of this word choice: That no one horse had more value than any other.
Imagine a Coca-Cola assembly line. Thousands of cans are hurtling down the conveyor belt to be packed in their ubiquitous boxes. Unbeknownst to them, however, eagle-eyed workers are looking for that odd-can-out. The one that doesn’t look like all the others. The defective one. That can is thrown away.
I know it sounds cruel and senseless, but that’s big business today. After all, no Coke can is more important than any other.
That’s the story with horses, too. Despite what Pixar would have you believe, whether it’s a can of coke, a Tesla car, or even a Buzz Lightyear action figure, their importance is only in their function; and in all of these cases, one is as good as another.
Not so a human being.
As a species, each type of animal carries a Divine lesson for life. As our Sages tell us, if not for the Torah, we would learn how to live from the animals because each animal species has something of ultimate value. But when it comes to a human being, it’s not just at the species level that we count — it’s each individual. Each one of us are like our own species.
Einstein is (probably falsely) credited for saying, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Every struggling teenager (and maybe more than a few adults, too) need to appreciate that if you feel you don’t fit in, you have not found the thing that the world needs you for. Don’t give up. It’s a big world, with a lot of problems, and there is one specific problem that no one can solve because they haven’t called you yet.
Yes, it is possible to deny your uniqueness and just do what everyone else does. But you are a human being, not a horse.
By Rabbi Stephen Baars
Originally from London, Rabbi Stephen Baars resides in Rockville, Maryland, and serves as executive director of Aish Seminars. An educator and marriage counselor for the past 25 years, Rabbi Baars and his wife, Ruth, are blessed with seven children. Learn more about Rabbi Baars at www.getbliss.com and www.core9.live.