Colors: Yellow Color

We are all familiar with the Kohen Gadol and the 12-stone “Choshen” (breastplate) he wore. Each of these stones represented one of the sons of our Father Yaakov, but this breastplate was much more than just an artistic design of the Tribes of Israel.  It was symbolic of unity – all the tribes together, on the chest of the High Priest – as he did his holy work in the Mishkan and then the Beis HaMikdash. When we are together – when all Jewish brothers put aside their differences and focus on the unique mission and purpose that we have been given – nothing can hold us back! And yet, one of the tribes almost didn’t make it. That’s correct – it came very close to having just 11 stones on the breastplate.

Every now and then, something just hits me like “a ton of bricks” (ouch!) and shakes me to the core. Well, it happened this past Shabbos. We were spending Shabbos by our daughter in Migdal HaEmek, celebrating the bris milah of our newest grandson. During the shalom zachar, a friend of theirs gave a d’var Torah and asked a simple question: “What were the first words spoken in the world?” For some reason, I couldn’t think of them. Did Adam talk to Eve? Was it the discussion between Cain and Abel? My mind went blank. And then he gave the answer. It’s in the third pasuk in the Torah: “G-d said, ‘Y’hi Or!’” Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan zt”l translates that as “There shall be light,” while the Stone Chumash translates it as “Let there be light.” In any case, whichever translation you prefer, the meaning is clear. There was darkness and Hashem wanted light.

It’s been very hard for me to watch the endless videos being posted of rabbis, politicians, community leaders, activists, and successful businesspeople paying their respects to Jonathan Pollard. I have seen them hugging him, holding his hand and extending their love. Allow me to get right to my point: Where the heck were these people when he sat in prison for 30 years?

When I can’t learn Daf Yomi with my regular rav, I make sure to watch and listen to Rav Eli Stefansky’s amazing Daf on YouTube. During one of his shiurim on Sukkah, Rav Eli quoted the Vilna Gaon as saying that the hardest mitzvah on Sukkos – and maybe the hardest mitzvah of the 613 – is “v’samachta b’chagecha” (to rejoice on the holiday). Think about it. There is a positive commandment to be happy for the entire holiday of Sukkos – every second of the day! That’s not easy! Now multiply that difficulty times 100 – during these very challenging and difficult days – and you have a mitzvah that might be impossible to perform.