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Using Your Gold

Friday, 4 February, 2022 - 1:58 pm

“Who is wise? One who learns from every person.”

That’s a quote from Pirkei Avot and sounds like a nice suggestion for character development. But in truth, the premise of this teaching is rooted in a fundamental Jewish belief that shapes our entire perspective of reality.

Public figures are commended for transparency in every part of their lives. From their daily schedules, wardrobe, diet and entertainment preferences. The public devours this information and delves into the minute details to the point of madness. For example, there can be lengthy Twitter threads discussing the tie color the president wore at a press conference.

While this all sounds absurd, it’s perfectly understandable for us to expect our leaders to utilize every moment of the day and every interaction in a manner that dignifies the nation he or she serves. Even the color of the tie or shoes makes a statement of what we stand for.

G-d is the most transparent entity we can possibly imagine. After all, His handiwork is on full display everywhere. It’s logical that every single detail of reality must enhance the honor G-d truly deserves. And the only way that can happen is if everything in this world is a contributor. If even one detail of creation was a carbon copy of another, it cannot truly enhance G-d’s glory.

For the next five weeks we learn of G-d’s instructions to the Israelites about constructing the Tabernacle or Sanctuary in the desert. A space that served as a beacon of inspiration for all humanity.

The detailed instructions served as a template for how all subsequent Holy Temples were later constructed, but historically they all looked different. Concerning the Holy Temple Maimonides writes “They must make it beautiful and attractive according to their potential. If possible, it is a mitzvah to plate it with gold and to magnify all of its aspects.” While the basic template always remained the same, the details varied based on the unique potential of the generation. And it was those details that made the Temples truly attractive.

Our sages point out that the Hebrew words of the commandment “Make a sanctuary for Me (G-d) and I will dwell in their midst”  literally translate “and I will dwell within them.” This nuance indicates that each one of us is mandated to create a home for G-d within ourselves. To become a beacon of inspiration for everyone around us. And while the template for how to do so is clearly articulated in the Code of Jewish Law, we are obligated to do it in our own unique way.

Every individual was granted unique superior qualities - your personal “gold” - and utilizing them in the service of G-d makes your personal Holy Temple truly attractive.

It turns out that learning from every person is the best way to validate your own unique contributions to the world and to appreciate G-d’s true glory. 


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