Worth More Than You ThinkFebruary 6, 2014 - 5:00 am
Engrave the names of the sons of Israel on the two stones the way a gem cutter engraves a seal. Then mount the stones in gold filigree settings and fasten them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the LORD.—Exodus 28:11–12
The Torah portion for this week is Tetzaveh, which means “command” or “connect,” from Exodus 27:20–30:10, and the Haftorah is from Ezekiel 43:10–27.
Imagine for a moment that there are two diamonds in front of you. The one on the right is a near flawless five-carat diamond. On the left is a completely flawless five-carat diamond. Which is more valuable?
Many people would assume that the perfect diamond is the more valuable of the two. We would assume that whatever the imperfect diamond is worth, it pales in comparison with its flawless counterpart.
But those people would be wrong. In fact, the flawless diamond is relatively valueless – because it’s a fake! There is no such thing as a completely flawless diamond, and any diamond that seems so is an imitation made in a laboratory. By definition, a true diamond that is formed in the ground by tremendous pressure over time will have a flaw. A flaw in a diamond doesn’t decrease its worth – it proves its authenticity and actually gives it value.
In this week’s Torah portion we read about the priests’ clothing and their service. Among the special garments created for the High Priest was the ephod, an apron-like garment that went over the shoulders and tied in the back. On it were the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. The High Priest would wear the ephod on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when he would plead for mercy on behalf of Israel. The stones would be “a memorial before the LORD.” They would invoke the memory of Jacob’s sons, and in their merit, all future generations would be forgiven.
The Sages note that the 12 sons of Jacob were far from perfect. Remember, these were the men who sold their brother Joseph into slavery. Why would we want to remember them on the most important day of the Jewish year?
The answer is because the sons of Jacob, flawed and all, were human beings beyond value. The fact that they weren’t perfect and had their share of flaws didn’t diminish their value – it proved their worth.
Every human being, by definition, is imperfect. But that doesn’t decrease our value to God. It makes us “real” and defines our mission here on earth. Our value doesn’t come from being perfect – it comes from taking a flawed soul and making it shine brightly anyway. It comes from becoming something beautiful and luminescent despite our failings. This was the power of the 12 tribes of Israel and the reason why their memory is considered a blessing.
This week, let’s focus on polishing our own diamonds – our own souls. Don’t mind the flaws – they just prove you’re a living, breathing person with value beyond comprehension.