Friday, February 7, 2014

Paving My Road With Diamonds

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Since I´m not planning on retiring there, I´m quite disinterested in its architecture. How come no one ever tells us what the road to heaven is paved with? That is what I wanna know.
And that is what we will find out in the parsha this week.

Parshas Tetzaveh dedicates most of its pages to fashion and design.

Well, kinda. The specific styles it speaks about are vintage clothing, retro design, and ancient architecture.

Moshe was commanded to make garments for the Kohanim. Included in these was the ephod, a piece of clothing similar to an apron, with two straps on top holding the avnei shoham, precious stones, encased in gold. Hashem told Moshe to engrave the names of all the twelve shevatim onto the stones as a remembrance of them, so that every time the Kohain Gadol did the avodah, Hashem would remember the righteousness of the tribes.

So, here´s my question:
Seriously? The shevatim? Those shevatim have caused so much drama and commotion in the past, and, granted they have made the parsha stories captivating and suspenseful, but aren´t we supposed to leave them in the past and get on with our uncomplicated lives?  
The avodah of the Kohain Gadol is vital and highly sensitive; the world's very existence depends upon it. As a result, there are many items that are avoided in the avodah so as not to bring up even the faintest memories of sin. While there is no question that the shevatim were men of extraordinary greatness, that greatness was also tainted by their sins. 

Whether it was Reuven being impulsive and making poor decisions, or Shimon and Levi's aggression and deceit, or the collaborative conspiracy of selling their brother, they seemed to have been far from perfect. And even though they had a rationale for what they did, they still plotted and carried out an attempt to kill Yosef, one of the greatest tzadikim in the history of mankind. Didn't that sin permanently affect who they were?
Shouldn't that be reason enough not to have their names engraved on the holiest and most critical chest in the world? 

The issue is based on a matter of perspective. A diamond is an object of beauty, yet even a minor imperfection can greatly devalue it. A small flaw can transform a priceless gem into an almost worthless stone. However, not every flaw destroys a diamond's value.

Imagine I would place two diamonds in front of you. One is a beautifully cut jewel with a minor flaw, and the other the same as the first, but flawless. A perfect diamond. 
Looking at them both, wouldn't it be safe for you to assume that the flawless diamond is more valuable than the other one?

Now, if we bring in a diamond expert to appraise the two diamonds, we would be surprised to hear that there is actually a huge difference between them; but that the diamond with the minor flaw is worth a fortune while the perfect one is almost valueless- because it's a fake.

One of the signs that a diamond is real, is that it has a flaw. While it may be a very minor imperfection and almost unnoticeable, all genuine diamonds have flaws. 
The only perfect diamonds we can find are made of cubic zirconium, and are therefore costume jewelry and fake. 

Same thing with the human. Man was not created to be perfect. Perfection rests in the realm of malachim. An angel never sins, and therefore an angel is perfect. But malachim, in all their perfection, cannot determine their destiny. They have one job to do with no option of not doing it. Therefore, they have no free will, no challenges, and no growth.   
Only man was given the opportunity to determine his destiny either by becoming the greatest of all or by sinking to the lowest of all.

How do I create who I would be for eternity? 
With the gift of free will. Now, free will doesn't mean the theoretical ability to choose; it means being put into situations where two choices are viable and both options are real. 
I need to be challenged. To allow for that, I need to be tempted to choose either good or bad and be given the ability to make mistakes. 

The idea of living without mistakes or without sin is not very probable and is not an ideal to strive for.

Actually, looking back in history, there have been four human beings who have never sinned. (I almost made the list, but messed it up just last week. And it wasn't even my fault.)

Who were these four perfect humans I speak of? 

Amram, Moshe Rabeinu's father
Yishai, Dovid Hamelech's father
Binyamin, Yosef Hatzadik's brother
Kilav, Shlomo Hamelech's brother

Now tell me, who became greater leaders and people in their lifetimes, the non-sinners or their relatives?
Amram or Moshe?
Yishai or Dovid?
Binyamin or Yosef?
Kilav or Shlomo?

The people who have reached the highest ranks of greatness were not the ones who were perfect. We can only reach greatness through mistakes, through challenges, and through embracing our flaws. 
At the end of his days, man is not measured by how much he has sinned. He is measured by how great he has become.
So, the shevatim were men of unimaginable greatness, but they also had flaws which caused them to sin. They were huge, beautiful, real diamonds- with flaws.

When viewing a diamond, you can't see the flaw unless you look through a jewelers loop that magnifies the stone by a power of ten times or more. It can only be perceived through direct scrutiny, and not by the naked eye. All the eye can see is its beauty.

While the blemishes will always be there, so will the shining brilliance of the jewel. One does not cancel out the other; its flaw isn't eliminated, nor is its brilliance eradicated. Both will always be there, because both have to be there.
I am a beautiful diamond with a flaw. And so are you.

And now I know all about the road to heaven. It is paved with error, sins, teshuva, and the next level of error.
Who knew it was that easy?

Have a beautiful shabbos,