Mendy Kaminker

You are unique, I am unique, together we are beautiful

“Did you notice that almost everyone drives the same color cars? 80% of the cars are black, white, or gray.”

I don’t recall where I heard that statement, but it stuck with me. And often, when I drive, I look around me to see how true it is.

That person spoke about how people are becoming increasingly similar and how our individualism is shrinking.

And isn’t it so? When it comes to choices of clothing, electronics (iPhone, anyone?), and even our daily routines, we often follow a remarkably uniform pattern.

While it’s no big deal if everyone in the world will be using an iPhone (or a Stanley cup), we must be aware of our individuality when it comes to our personality. There is a reason why G-d endowed us with unique traits, qualities – and challenges.

Judaism emphasizes the value of individuality, pointing to the twelve tribes as an example. We are all Jews – Am Yisrael Chai! – but each of us also has a unique identity. A fascinating piece of Midrash tells us that when the Red Sea parted for the Israelites’ exodus, it wasn’t just a single path that opened up; there were actually twelve separate paths, providing one for each tribe.

It was G-d’s way of reminding us that we are all unique and we should appreciate our distinctive relationship with Him.

In this week’s Parsha, we find the story of the Choshen, a beautiful breastplate worn by the Kohen Gadol (High Priest). The Choshen comprised precious stones such as ruby, emerald, golden, and blue sapphire. How many stones were at the Choshen? You guessed correctly: twelve stones, representing the twelve tribes of Israel.

Each person is unique. And each person, through their journey upwards, produces a different light and color. Together, we create the beautiful Choshen.

This week is a fantastic opportunity to increase our awareness of ourselves: our strengths, talents, and weaknesses. When we use our strong points and turn our weaknesses into strengths, we will be better people, both “in the eyes of G-d and man.”

About the Author
Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the Chabad Rabbi of Hackensack, and an editorial member of
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