Our Hebrew Text for this Sunday is part of the continuing saga of the family of Abraham and Sarah. This particular story, Isaac and Rebekah, reminds me of a Shakespearian comedy; lots of characters, trying to set up a young couple who we hope will fall in love. There is a comic sense, particularly towards the end of the story where Isaac goes out for a walk in the field and Rebekah’s caravan arrives.[1] Now, polite translations have a note that says the meaning of the  Hebrew term translated as “walk in the field” is uncertain. Rabbi Burton Visotzky, in his book, The Genesis of Ethics[2] translates that line as “Isaac went out into the fields at dusk to urinate and looked up to see a caravan of camels arriving.” The young man, urinating as the potential love interest arrives on the scene! I’m sure such a scene would get a big laugh at Bard on the Beach! And there is a sinister perspective to the tale; it is in many respects a tale of an arranged marriage. And that last moment we hear in the portion from the lectionary reminds us of the deep patriarchy in these texts, “Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So, Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”[3] I wonder, of course, about how Rebekah feels about this! Exploring any text is dependant on your perspective.

I want to invite us into a conversation here about perspective and discerning truth. Think back to André Stephany’s sermon last week, as he challenged our thinking about Abraham as a “superhero.” To fully appreciate Abraham and the family that grows out of Sarah, we need to see different perspectives on the stories. And in doing so we are compelled to do the same in our daily lives. We know for example, that as a species, our minds create shortcuts for themselves, to be more efficient. The challenge is those shortcuts become biases. We have for example a short cut/bias that what we see is reality, but we are really seeing a construct about what our mind perceives as reality. When I talk to executives and boards about this, I use the analogy that as I look at some data, I’m really only seeing a single or two-dimensional kind of map. If you and I look at the same thing, and start to compare perspectives, now we might begin to see a third dimension together, we gain clarity together about what we cannot see individually. Discerning truth is a team sport!

I suggest that this difference in perspective, this sense that truth is discerned, over time, by groups, is vital as we begin to explore our systemic racism and Eurocentric, white male dominated, lives. And if in reading this last sentence, you are uncomfortable, good. I’m a little uncomfortable writing it. And that means there is some learning for us both here, some possible discerning of truth beyond our limited individual brain shortcuts and biases. We can learn together, what we have trouble seeing alone. Discerning truth is a team sport.

Last point, I’m reading Eric Law’s book, Holy Currencies[4]on Chris Pappas’ recommendation. One of the Holy Currencies is “Truth.” Eric is a priest, now based in LA, but was for a time one of the clergy at our neighbour, St. James. He writes:

“The Hebrew word that is translated as ‘truth’ emet, is composed of the three letters aleph, mem and tav — the first, the middle and the last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The composition of the word may signify that in order to discern the truth, one must know the beginning, the middle and the end of the event. There is no half-truth in the Hebrew emet. We cannot take one moment, one feeling or one perspective and call that the truth.”[5]

To discern the truth, we must listen to and see different perspectives. Discerning truth is a team sport. I see both comedy and tragedy in the story of Isaac and Rebekah. What is your perspective?

[1] Genesis 24:63; New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

[2] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/572581.The_Genesis_of_Ethics

[3] Genesis 24:67; NRSV

[4] https://www.kscopeinstitute.org/holy-currencies-books

[5] Law, Eric; Holy Currencies, page 44