KJ Hannah Greenberg

‘Precious’ vs. ‘Cherished’

Often we fail to think clearly or are victims of intentional linguistic confusion. The first case can be exemplified by when we call one grandchild by a different grandchild’s name. The second case can be exemplified by when we misguidedly refer to Judea and Samaria, i.e., to part of Israel, as “The West Bank.” On the first occasion, we’re internally befuddled. On the other, by integrating fallacious, external referents for notions, we’re making a mistake.

Another instance of semantic bafflement occurs when we erroneously use “precious” in place of “cherished” or vice versa. Weigh that the overindulged individual, who I encountered during a music program, who demanded to claim not the seat that her ticket indicated but the seat of her choice, on using her phone during the show, and on unapologetically coughing and farting and doing so loudly, was, in her own esteem, “precious.” She considered herself to be a “treasure.”

On the flip side, my sons and daughters, who are unselfish young adults, will always, correctly, be deemed “cherished.” They will always, appropriately, be the recipients not only of their own regard but also of much nurturing, protection and aid from their mother and from others of their dear ones.

The lady at the recital was self-entitled. My offspring are beloved. There’s a difference.

To be more precise, something “precious” is subjectively valued whereas something “cherished” is objectively prized. Per my awareness, no other woman attending the concert attributed worth to the egocentric lady’s antics except for her. That’s the nature of being “precious.”

On the other hand, my husband, my mother, my in-laws, my husband’s sister, my sister, and many more family members and friends appreciate my children. In fact, over the decades, all of us have been thankful for those scion even when they’ve trashed the living room with toys, left heaps of unwashed dishes in the sink, or forgotten birthdays. We adored and still adore them for existing. That’s the nature of being “cherished.”

Sadly, across society, the vanity exhibited by many folks has proven these concepts to be conflated. We’ve been urged to co-mingle our understandings of these abstractions. To wit, our civilization celebrates the input of athletes and entertainer, yet overlooks the significant contributions of teachers, firefighters, and the like.

Fortunately, there are people who realize (and who perform accordingly) that whereas gashmius might be “precious,” ruchnious, forever, is what’s to be “cherished.” Meaning, while it’s nice to enjoy social status or riches, it’s necessary to maintain connections to our heritage and to G-d. External trappings are “precious.” Nevertheless, spiritual development is “cherished.”

Rabbi Norman Lamm elaborates in “Hello Cruel World,”

We are, all of us, sick and disgusted by the Mabbul shel mayim, the petty thievery that has brought on, if not a flood of water, then a flood of … revelations. They are sickening to all of us.

But far more consequential, far more disastrous, infinitely more evil is the duplicity in international politics which threatens to bring a mabuul shel esh, a flood of fire onto the world and especially onto the Jewish people.2

Essentially, when our land (because of foolhardy international politicos) or our goods (because of local, ethnic cousins) are stolen, we lose “precious” things. If, however, our place in the Klal is commandeered or our connection to the Aibishter goes missing, we’ve lost “cherished” things.

More exactly, embracing our legacy means safeguarding our values. We must speak and act against evil. We must uphold good.

[W]e must continue to use our ideals realistically. We must continue to insist that man is created in the tzellem Elohim, in the image of God, and we must always strive to enhance that image—even if we are the only ones to do so. Because that is our burden, and that is our glory.

Although the entire world stands against us, i.e. although it avers that night is day—that “precious” is “cherished,” we have to hold fast to Truth. It’s our duty as members of Am Yisrael not to yield to ideological darkness. Furthermore, our birthright is not our singular “cherished” endowment. Our relationship to Hashem too, is “cherished.”

When we stand for Eretz Yisrael, Hashem stands with us. As much as we adore our Taddy in Shamayim, He adores us more; parents value their children more than children value their parents.

This measure of favor from The Boss, this “experience of being with G[-]d, of entrusting our confidence in Him, of being aware of His presence at all times, gives us the strength to reorient our lives, to redirect all our energies, to refocus all our desires towards Him.”4 In brief, our inestimable bond with Him is worth more than castles, titles, or other peripheral eminences, is worth more than anything “precious.”

Ultimately, the most noteworthy distinction is not between immature persons and grown-up ones, between strangers and luvs, but between living according to self-image’s decrees or living according to Torah’s dictates. It’s up to us to elevate The Nation of Israel and to advance our kesher with The Almighty. That way, we incorporate not what’s “precious,” but what’s “cherished.”

  1. “Cherish vs. Treasure—What’s the Difference?” Accessed. 16 Nov. 2023.
  2. Rabbi Norman Lamm. “Hello Cruel World.” The Lamm Heritage Archives. Yeshiva U. 27 Oct. 1973. Accessed 12 Nov. 2023.
  3. Rabbi Norman Lamm. “So Help Me G[-]d.” The Lamm Heritage Archives. Yeshiva U. 13 May 1967. Accessed 12 Nov. 2023.


About the Author
KJ Hannah Greenberg has been playing with words for an awfully long time. Initially a rhetoric professor and a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar, she shed her academic laurels to romp around with a prickle of imaginary hedgehogs. Thereafter, her writing has been nominated once for The Best of the Net in poetry, three times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for poetry, once for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for fiction, once for the Million Writers Award for fiction, and once for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. To boot, Hannah’s had more than forty books published and has served as an editor for several literary journals.