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Rocks and Diamonds

Rocks and Diamonds


It was a wintry Friday night in Brooklyn. A roomful of Jewish college kids in the ’60s, challenging the young rabbi chairing the roundtable: How can you believe in G‑d when science has proven . . . ? Why keep kosher in an age of government inspection and refrigeration? Isn’t it racist to speak of the chosen people? The rabbi was doing his best.

Sitting in the audience was an elderly rabbi, long black coat, elegant white beard. He rose to speak.

“The questions you are asking are good questions, but for this you don’t need to come to Chabad. Anyone who has learned Torah can tell you these answers. But you came to Chabad; now let me tell you why you came.”

Everyone there was surprised he could speak English. The rabbi with the immaculate black coat and long white beard began his story.

A little boy was walking with his father down a steep hill in the heat of the day. They saw a man coming up the hill towards them, sweating, with a heavy sack on his shoulders weighing him down. When the man reached them, the little boy asked what he had in his sack, why he was going up the hill, why he was working so hard.

The man told the little boy that his oven had broken, and he had to come down to the valley to get more stones to build himself an oven.

“Why not get more stones,” asked the little boy, “and build a bigger oven that will keep you warmer, and you can have more food? There must be more stones still in the valley.”

“Oh, you little boy,” said the man, “you don’t yet know what it means to have to work, how hard it is to schlep.” He put his free hand on the little boy’s shoulder. “When you’ll be big like me, you’ll be happy with a little oven too.”

The little boy and his father continued down the hill.

They saw another man coming up the hill towards them. Same size man, same size sack, but this man didn’t seem so weighed down.

“What have you in the sack,” the little boy wanted to know. “Is it stones? Are you going to build yourself a small oven?”

“Oh no,” the man smiled broadly, “no oven building for me! See, I was down in the valley digging for turnips, and I hit a treasure. Diamonds! Rubies! Pearls! I have two daughters, two weddings to make. I’m going to open a store and stop peddling from town to town, build myself a house with wooden floors and . . .”

“Why not get more diamonds?” interrupted the boy. “There must be more left in the valley.”

“Son,” said the old man, putting his free hand on the little boy’s shoulder, “believe me, I searched the valley clean. I don’t think there is another diamond down there.”

The little boy and his father continued down the hill.

“You see,” said the little boy’s father, “when you’re carrying diamonds, they’re never too heavy. The first guy may have had diamonds too, but he didn’t know what they were.”

The old rabbi with the long white beard looked at the college kids.

“You see what the father was telling the boy? A mitzvah is a diamond. Every mitzvah that we do is a precious, precious thing. This is why you come to Chabad: not just to learn a mitzvah, but to learn that it is a diamond. When you know they are diamonds, then most of your questions will be answered.”

I heard this story on a wintry Friday night in Brooklyn. A roomful of Jewish college kids in the early ’80s, challenging the rabbi chairing the roundtable. The questions had shifted with the times: why do we need mitzvahs when we can meditate instead?

A man got up and told this story that he had heard twenty years earlier on a cold wintry night a few blocks from where they were now. He told the story well, and ended with the words, “It’s been twenty years since Rabbi Kazarnovsky stood up that night to tell that story. I could tell you dozens of experiences I’ve had since then, but to you it would be meaningless.”

I jolted. It was just four weeks since my grandfather died. Rabbi Kazarnovsky was my grandfather.

I type the story with pride and awe. Pride, because he was my grandfather; awed, because he was my grandfather.

Passion, demands the Torah. You can’t be Jewish out of a sense of duty. An observant Jew? An unsatisfying label. Like an obedient child, a dutiful husband, a law-abiding citizen, an “observant Jew” accepts obligations—yet keeps on trudging. I know we’re the Chosen People, moans Tevye, but isn’t it time You chose someone else?

Duty and diligence are not calculated to inspire; they’re heavy rocks. But when duty and diligence are born of passion, they are tough as steel and as brilliant diamonds. A heavy load? Maybe, on the scales; but not on my back.

“You have to be a rabbi,” a friend told me when I was seventeen, “it’s expected of you. It’s even in your genes.” A duty, he was saying. And I thank a rabbi with an immaculate, long black coat and an elegant, long white beard for showing me it’s a diamond.

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Mordechai Yehuda Gold denver co July 12, 2015

so nice gave me alot of food for thought. Thanks!!! Reply

Mushkie Kahn NY July 9, 2015

Thank you! I showed this to a 12 year old, not yet observant girl a while back. Yesterday I saw her, after not having seen her for a while. She was dressed tznius. After catching up, I asked her about it. She told me "remember that article? Well, I was thinking that the harder it is to pick up a diamond, the bigger and more expensive it will be. So, same with mitzvos. Tznius was something really hard for me, so I chose to take that on and never looked back..." Wow! Reply

Sam Ashdod, Israel July 3, 2015

Very interesting It's about attitude and a philosophical approach to life. Reply

Renato hugo December 10, 2014

what is the moral lesson in this story? Reply

Karen Claudio lowell, ma January 30, 2013

Absolutely wonderful! This is wonderful and is a much needed lesson to learn for everyone not only Jewish people but all of us. The work that we do may be at times back breaking we may feel at times that it is so hard to carry on however when we realize the worth of the work we do and that we are serving G-d the work becomes precious to us. Reply

Judy Resnick Far Rockaway, NY May 2, 2012

The Meaning and the Message It's burdensome to carry a bag full of rocks.
It's easy to carry a bag full of diamonds.
So what are your Jewish obligations to you?
Are they rocks, or are they diamonds? Reply

Victor C. Naranjo August 17, 2011

what is the message of the story ? Reply

Hannah london, England November 16, 2009

what is the meaning of this story? Reply

Simcha Seattle, WA August 2, 2009

Making Mitzvot Light To me a mitzvah is never a burden, when my heart is behind it. All mitvot that are performed without love and compassion - no matter how small - can seem like a burden. But most seemingly challenginly mitzvah's so-called "burden" seems to sprout wings when it is performed with the sincerity of love for G-d, our fellow man and as an act of worship and doing our part in tikkun olam. Reply

Melody New York, USA November 2, 2008

GREAt STORY!!! whoa i like it!!!

Very Very Very touching.....................: ) Reply

Nacha Sara Leaf Oak Park, MI via August 29, 2008

Rocks and Diamonds I wish that all of our not-yet-observant Jewish brethren would come to understand that the yoke of Torah and mitzvos, which they consider to be burdensome, actually represent their true liberation. The so-called diamonds of their life, often rituals and pasttimes that provide quick gratification, are actually the rocks that hold them down. What many do not yet realize is that "the rules will set you free." Reply

Roger H. Frost Worcester, Massachusetts March 5, 2008

Praise God Praise God for speaking through you.

A diamond in the rough every time Reply

Anonymous Havelock, Canada August 14, 2006

diamonds What a touching story...a story which speaks louder than any scientific book in the world...a story which brings us to the essence of life...observing the written rules printed in our hearts....rules which when observed are like diamonds within our hearts. Reply

Sunny Murchison Pasadena, California August 13, 2006

KUDOS to Shimon Posner for the elegance and wisdom in his article about "rocks and diamonds."
Also, the elegant Rabbi in the story brought a tear to my eye and his grandson sharing his love and awe for his marvelous grandfather. Reply

Anonymous Dallas, TX August 11, 2006

Rocks and diamonds It is a great story. It is a great reminder that the pull and push and work and study and exertion and sometimes hurt of being Jewish, the burdens required of our religion, well, they are diamonds. Reply

Pam Shreveport, Louisiana August 11, 2006

Rocks and Diamonds I am not Jewish (well, maybe in my heart), however, I read your e-mails every morning and as I sat here with tears rolling down my face I feel very fortunate to be able to receive them. To be able to share the words of a rabbi with an immaculate, long, black coat and an elegant, long, white beard for teaching me still today, many years after his death about diamonds. Diamonds are like that you know. They last forever and never lose their beauty. I thank you. Reply

Linda Haniford Brooklyn, NY August 7, 2006

Thanks for the story. Reply

Edith Brown Silver Spring, MD via August 6, 2006

Rocks and Diamonds The tears welled up in my eyes as I read this article. For the first time in my life I have no regrets towards the people I labeled unapprecitive. I have always gave of myself freely. People would say, "Be careful, your kindness will be mistaken for stupidy." I learned to feel bad when I felt my mitzvah's were without gratitude. I too have thought, G-d could you burden another person for a while? I'm on overwhelm and so are our people. He chose the Jews for a reason. Who are we to question G-d? The Jews have carried many "rocks." Soon the "diamonds" are coming and there will be no more "rocks." It is the rocks that teach us. We are here to please HaShem with endless mitzvah's. Are we not? Reply

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