A great Chassidic master, who had scores of devoted followers who were themselves great scholars, once befriended a simple man, unlearned and unremarkable in any way and accorded him considerable honor and affection. This puzzled many of his followers, and finally, one student, a learned and righteous man, dared approach the master to inquire about his manner. The Rebbe did not reply.

A few days later, the Rebbe requested this Chassid, who was a diamond merchant of great expertise, to bring some samples of his diamonds for the Rebbe to view. The Chassid came as requested and brought a collection of his most exquisite stones. The Rebbe queried him regarding each stone. The man proceeded to display the diamonds and name the value of each one. “This one is 100 rubles, this one is 500 rubles,” and withdrawing a diamond from the bottom of his display he proclaimed “this one is worth 2000 rubles!” The Rebbe shrugged and said to his Chassid, “with all due respect, the 500 ruble diamond looks exactly like the 2000 ruble diamond, if not more glittering and beautiful.” The merchant said, “in all modesty Rebbe, to truly appreciate the value of a diamond one must be an expert.” The Rebbe gave him a broad smile in return. “Yes, you are right. And to truly appreciate the quality of a soul, one must also be an expert!”

When we look at another person we see his superficial, external qualities. Yet hidden beneath his physical traits are layers upon layers of spirituality. The soul is more multi-faceted than the most precious of diamonds, contained within it is good deeds and inspirations, centuries of incarnations and layers of accomplishments. Each incarnation has contributed to the soul, each one leaving the soul more elevated and complete than it was before. And within each of us lies a soul more complex and holy than we can imagine.

Our present is an embodiment of past lives and experiences, our soul contains multitudes of generations. Each incarnation has brought the soul to another level of Shelemut – completion and articulation. Yet, the soul within us is uniquely ours. Each incarnation has its unique purpose and mission. This purpose defines us, and is ours alone. Parallel to the importance and magnitude of its goal are its struggles and challenges in its quest for accomplishment.

In our lives, this translates into the ability to welcome and appreciate our challenges and to deal with them as though they are the very reason for our existence. The greater the struggle the more rewarding the achievement, such is the outlook of a person attuned to the spirit and spirituality in life.

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