Dear Reader,

I love flowers, especially roses. Soon after we moved into our new home, we planted a rosebush in our front garden. The bush has since grown and now produces beautiful, fragrant red roses every season.

Just be careful if you want to pick them, though! Their thorns, or technically “prickles,” can be nasty. Scientists provide different reasons for why roses need those prickles.

Some speculate that the thorns on roses protect them from being eaten by animals attracted to the perfumed smell in the oils of the petals. Also, the typically sickle-shaped, hook-like prickles aid the rose in hanging onto other vegetation as the rose bush grows. Some species of roses, especially ones that grow on coastal sand dunes, have densely packed straight prickles. These trap wind-blown sand and protect the bush’s roots by reducing erosion.

Whatever the reason, the prickles clearly help the rose bush flourish.

In this week’s Torah portion, we are introduced to our matriarch, Rebecca. Our sages applied to her the verse: “As a rose among the thorns, so is my beloved among the daughters.”1 Rebecca is considered to be the proverbial “rose among thorns,” growing up in a corrupt home and conniving society.

As the rose petals rub against its thorns, the roses emit their pleasant fragrance. Similarly, Rebecca’s thorny background enabled her to become her greatest self.

From a tender age, Rebecca witnessed lying, deceit, and duplicity. Yet instead of succumbing to evil and allowing it to become a part of her psyche, it sensitized her to the bankruptcy of a G‑dless way of life.

All too often nowadays, we justify every failing we have by laying the blame on our circumstances. Perhaps we were born into a dysfunctional family bereft of warmth and positive emotions; perhaps our spouse is cold or indifferent and doesn’t provide the psychological support we need and deserve; perhaps our education didn’t meet today’s standards and career goals, and prevents us from achieving success. While all this may be true, from Rebecca we learn how to thrive despite adversity by utilizing shortcomings to our advantage.

But Rebecca didn’t only overcome the negativity of her background; she exploited its negativity, its thorns and prickles, to develop a keen perception and awareness of evil. This later enabled her to determine the true character of her sons and to make a monumental decision that would forge the path of history when it came time for Isaac to bless them.

Rebecca’s life story teaches us that sometimes it’s the prickles, thorns, and shakeups that life so disturbingly throws at us that can bring out the best in each of us.

Chana Weisberg
Editor, TJW