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The Real Diamonds    

The Real Diamonds

When I lived in London, everyone was obsessed with money and careers. I was too, which is why I sacrificed so much of my shalom bayit to run a soul-destroying business...


Once, there was a very poor man, who was struggling to put bread on the table to feed his wife and family. The poor man had in his possession a map, which had been passed down many generations in his family, which described the route to an amazing island full of diamonds. The route was dangerous, and the journey would take many months to complete, but the poor man became so desperate, he decided to risk it.

He set out on his way, and after many moons, many miles and many voyages over rough seas, he finally came to the island of diamonds.
He stumbled ashore, and realised that everywhere he trod, there were diamonds. Whooping for joy, he started stuffing as many diamonds as he could into his bag. One of the locals came over to him, and started laughing. The poor man stopped, looked up, and asked why the stranger was laughing.
“Look around, you idiot. The whole place is full of diamonds. What are you so excited about?”
The poor man was confused; the journey had been long and arduous – maybe he’d got mixed up about what he was meant to be doing. “What’s valuable here, then?” he asked. “Potatoes. But you have to travel to the dark heart of the island, where many wild animals live, to even find one.”
The poor man emptied his sack, asked for directions and set off to the dark heart of the island. After many sleepless, hectic days and nights, he stumbled across a potato vine, and not believing his luck, filled up his bag with potatoes and hastened away.
He travelled back to his home, and banged on the door: “Wife! Quickly, let me in!” Eyes shining, he tipped out his treasure on the floor – a mound of stinking, slimy, mouldy potatoes. His wife looked at him in disbelief. All that travel and trouble, and look what her husband had come back with. “Where are the diamonds?” she asked. “Diamonds?” Her husband blinked. He remembered the island full of diamonds, he remembered the whole purpose of his trip, and he burst into tears.
My husband told the above story at the shabbat table this week, as a parable about the value of collecting as many mitzvah ‘diamonds’ as we can in this lowly world, where everyone is obsessed with potatoes. I thought about it a lot afterwards, because I’ve been finding it hard to hang on to my diamonds, recently.
When I lived in London, everyone was obsessed with their careers and purchasing potential. I was too, which is why I sacrificed so much of my shalom bayit and peace of mind to run a soul-destroying business.
Hashem blessed me with two children, after a relatively long period of infertility – and because I was focused on work and career, at that point in my life, two kids seemed like the perfect amount.
Then we moved to Israel, and Hashem took my business and career away from me, as I’ve written about elsewhere. Thank G-d, that was the time that I stumbled across Rabbi Brody, who introduced me to Rabbi Nachman’s teachings, which literally saved my life.
Because I went from having some ‘A-class’ career potatoes, to nothing. I was so burned out from my failed business, that I couldn’t even contemplate trying to do something similar again; and I didn’t have the Hebrew language skills to do something ‘mindless’ like being a shop assistant.
That’s when the fact that I ‘only’ had two children started to really bother me. I desperately needed a distraction, to feel like I had a reason for existing, now I could no longer hide behind being a career woman.
But G-d in His wisdom had other plans. Again, I’ve written about it elsewhere, but the ‘short’ version is that I’ve seriously prayed and waited for more children for four years now, and nothing has happened.
In my old community, it would perhaps have been less obvious, and less socially isolating. The family sizes there are much smaller, and we would have blended in a lot more (at least in terms of number of kids…). Where I live now, thank G-d, the average family is at least six kids – but most people have more.
Practically every social gathering or Shabbat meal I go to, someone is either having or just had a new baby. And if they haven’t just had one themselves, they are enthusiastically discussing other people’s new additions.
I’m not the most sociable person at the best of times, and I’m always rubbish at small talk. But it used to be that I could ‘play along’ enough to kind of fit in with the conversation. Now, I just can’t.
Thank G-d, I get a full night’s sleep. Thank G-d, instead of complaining about never having a moment to myself, I’m more preoccupied about how to fill my time in a meaningful and productive way. Thank G-d, I spend a lot of time talking to Hashem, and no time at all talking to child therapists, family doctors and tutors.
To put it another way, my ‘family-related’ potatoes also stack up to a big nothing.
I’m trying not to complain (everything is for the best…), compete against or judge others, which knocks out a whole other rich seam of ‘conversation’. What’s more, I’m not a big shopper or exercise fanatic and I don’t follow the news or discuss politics.
So what do I have left to talk about? Hashem. Hashem is pretty much all I have. The trouble is, Hashem is not always such a popular topic, especially at informal get-togethers where people would rather swap recipes and complaints.
The diamonds are so plentiful down here, it’s idiotic to take too much notice of them.
So as time goes on, I’ve been talking less and less, and going out less and less. Some days, this bothers me. Some days, I wonder whether I shouldn’t being trying to dig up more potatoes, at least just to have something to talk about.
That’s when Hashem, in His kindness, sends me my husband, to remind me that every visit made to Kever Rochel or the Kotel is a diamond. That every hour spent talking to Hashem is absolutely priceless; that all the prayers for better middot, genuine happiness and joy and more emuna are what I’m really meant to be concentrating on down here.
It’s still quite lonely, and I do have times when I kind of miss my old potatoes. But I know it’s for the very best that Hashem took them away – I see how easy it is to be superficial and complacent and casual in your relationship to Hashem – and also with other people - when you have a bag stuffed full of them.
At this stage of my life, I can’t and won’t let go of Hashem – I have absolutely nothing else to fill myself up with. And in the most profound sense, this emptiness and loneliness are the greatest gifts that Hashem has ever given me.

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  1 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  You are so lucky
yehudit levy6/29/2010 9:07:34 AM

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