by Rabbi Simon Jacobson
On Sunday afternoons, the Rebbe would stand outside the door of his office
to greet and bestow a blessing upon anyone who came to see him. He would
often stand for hours as thousands of people filed by, many of them seeking
a blessing or advice about a personal matter or a spiritual dilemma. The
Rebbe was once asked how he had the strength to stand all day, sometimes
for seven or eight hours, to accommodate everyone. The Rebbe beamed and replied:
"When you're counting diamonds you don't gets tired."
The Rebbe Rashab [Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Schneersohn] was once asked by
a Chasid: "Why do you so emphasize the quality and value of simple Jews;
how can they be compared to the obvious greatness of the esteemed scholars
and the pious?" Knowing that the Chasid was a diamond merchant, the Rebbe
asked him to display several diamonds of different values. The Chasid complied.
Though he was surprised at the request, he knew that the Rebbe's wishes had
deeper meaning. The Rebbe studied the diamonds for a while, picked up one
of them and exclaimed: "Ah! This must be the most valuable of the bunch.
Am I correct?" The Chasid did not want to contradict the Rebbe even though
this particular stone was not the most precious. The Rebbe persisted: "Is
it or is it not?" The Chasid relented and said no. "How could that be? It
looks so beautiful. So large and bright." "Well," the Chasid continued, "only
a trained eye can appreciate the true value of a diamond. The naked eye is
unable to discern the diamond's worth--its cut, carats, clarity and color."
The Rebbe smiled and said: "My dear friend, the same and even more so is
true with souls. The naked eye cannot see the value of souls. One needs a
trained eye to be able to distinguish the true value of a soul."
Why diamonds? A Rebbe's every utterance is absolutely precise. Why did the
Rebbe choose this particular metaphor to demonstrate the value of souls?
The answer becomes clear upon examining the nature of a diamond and the process
used in producing the precious stone.
Diamonds are as old as the universe itself. Most of them are found deep beneath
the earth's surface and need to be excavated from molten rock, called kimberlite.
On the average, more than twenty tons of kimberlite must be processed in
order to procure just one diamond.
After the surrounding rock is crushed, what remains is the diamond in the
rough. The rough diamond is then cut by sawing or cleaving (splitting) along
the grain of the stone. The pieces are then mounted in a fastturning lathe
where the gem is shaped roughly by a diamondtipped tool, followed by the
bruiting process, which rounds out the stones. Finally the diamonds are polished,
allowing all of their facets to emerge. The stone is then placed in a holder
(a dop), and facets are ground on the surface by a spinning disk bearing
a paste made of diamond dust and olive oil. The cutting of each facet requires
changing the position of the stone in the dop. The final product is a brilliant
crystal that refracts, reflects and disperses light. Most diamonds are
polyhedrons, meaning they have many surfaces (facets), which are converted
in the polishing process into many more facets, the most popular being the
brilliant cut, which has fifty-eight facets.
The value of a diamond is determined by four characteristics: carat (weight),
color, clarity and cut.
Among the diamond's unique qualities is that it is the hardest of all known
substances, and it therefore can only be cut with another diamond or diamond
dust. Diamond comes from the Greek term adamas, which means
"unconquerable." A diamond is also known for its outstanding brilliance and
Every phenomenon in life is our teacher, the Baal Shem Tov tells us. So what
can we learn from a diamond?
By using the analogy of a diamond to describe the value of each man, woman
and child, the Rebbe is telling us that regardless of externals, every person
is a true diamond, the toughest substance in existence. Everyone has a divine
neshomah, a pure soul, and regardless of behavior and outward appearance,
every neshomah remains intact. Unconquerable.
However, G-d wanted the pure neshomah to descend into our material
world and demonstrate its power and glory and to illuminate the universe.
He uprooted the soul from its natural spiritual habitat and embedded the
diamondneshomah in the hard rock of harsh materialism, under layers
upon layers that initially shroud and obscure the fire and brilliance, and
even the very existence of the soul.
Our immersion in material survival makes it difficult for us to recognize
the spirituality within. The majority of our time-- more than twenty tons
of rock compared to one diamond--is preoccupied with work, eating, sleeping,
paying our bills, entertaining ourselves. No wonder our inexperienced eyes
don't see diamonds. But the trained eye sees the diamond in others. The
Rebbe--the most shining diamond of them all, whose selfless personality is
a transparent channel and expression of G-dliness--sees the true valeven
when covered over by mountains of rock.
To fulfill its purpose, the diamond needs to be excavated, cut and polished.
This is the mission with which every one of us has been charged. The first
step is gaining the awareness that in the hard rock is hidden a precious
diamond. We must identify the neshomahdiamond and reach for it with
unconditional love. The second step is excavation and cutting: clearing away
and allowing the diamond to emerge. To reveal the diamond in a raw world
of rock requires bittul [self-nullification], peeling away the outer
layers, shedding unrefined habits, eliminating the inappropriate allowing
for the diamond to surface. Some stones need to be sawed, others cleaved.
They then need to be rounded out and polished through Torah and mitzvahs,
each mitzvah allowing another facet in us to shine. And finally this process
yields the completed diamond that radiates and beautifies this world.
Every diamondsoul has its own unique personality, its own chaine (the
sum of the Hebrew letters [gematria] of chaine equals fifty-eight:
the fifty-eight facets of a "brilliant cut")--its strengths (carats), clarity,
color and cut--and it must be treated in kind, befitting its personal
individuality. Each stone needs to be cut precisely, with the greatest
sensitivity, a most beautiful cut uniquely appropriate for this particular
We are all diamond cutters. The Rebbe, being the "master cutter," trains
us all in the process. How appropriate that only a diamond can cut a diamond.
Only one soul can reach another. No machines, no other powerful forces can
do the job. Take the strongest body, the strongest material force, and you
can cut and shape any other piece of matter. But not a diamond. The physical
body cannot touch the ethereal spirit. A soul, on the other hand, even if
it is only soul dust, can reach and touch another soul.
"When you're counting diamonds, you don't get tired." The Rebbe isn't
just telling us that everyone is a diamond, he is also telling us why we
must wait patiently, untiringly--because this tenacious attitude will bring
the diamond to the surface. The Rebbe is also directing us as to what we
must do, what is our mission in this world: we must recognize that all people
are diamonds and help actualize every individual s precious potential, by
excavating, cutting and polishing and revealing the brilliance within, allowing
every man, woman and child's inner personality to emerge and illuminate the
world in which we live.
Why did G-d create diamonds? Perhaps to have an example in our lives of the
value and preciousness of the soul; a soul that lies deeply embedded in rock
and which, when it emerges, shines with unprecedented brilliance and fire.
This book is a beautiful sampling of a few of the Rebbe's diamonds. For this
we offer gratitude to Mordechai Staiman--a diamond of a man himself.
Rabbi Simon Jacobson is author of Toward a Meaningful Life: The Wisdom
of the Rebbe and 49 Steps to Personal Refinement. For fourteen
years Rabbi Jacobson prepared the Lubavitcher Rebbe's public talks for
publication. He lives in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York,
and is editor-in-chief of Vaad Hanochos Hatmimim, a foundation dedicated
to perpetuating the Rebbe's teachings.