Occasionally, something that one hears or sees lends perspective to another unrelated matter. Something which you may have known all along suddenly crystallizes, and its magnitude sinks in. I recently experienced such an epiphany.

My wife and I paid a visit to our nation's capital. One of the highlights of the visit was a stop in the National Archives, an impressive building which houses more than nine billion(!) documents and articles which record all the important — and many of the not-so-important — events in United States history. The main attraction, however, is the majestic rotunda at the center of the building. From morning to night, a hushed line slowly creeps along, people patiently awaiting their turn to have a close-up glimpse of the "Charters of Freedom," the three faded documents showcased at the far end of the rotunda: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

Who would consider defacing treasured documents which permanently changed the course of history?The reverence felt by those present was obvious — as was the incredible security apparatus designed to protect these priceless documents. My untrained eye noticed the guards, surveillance cameras, and the thick impenetrable plastic casing. I'm certain, though, that there are many other indiscernible security measures in place.

Why the security? Who would consider stealing or defacing treasured documents which permanently changed the course of history, bringing freedom and prosperity to billions of people — the citizens of this country, as well as the citizens of many other nations whose constitutions have replicated these documents' principles? Only a person with no appreciation for history, an uncultured individual to whom nothing is sacred, could do such a thing. The reality is, unfortunately, that such scoundrels do exist, and measures must therefore be taken to secure the documents.

On second thought, a document even more momentous and priceless than these was once deliberately destroyed. And not by an uncouth, ill-bred rogue, but by a person who appreciated its worth more than anyone else.

The man? Moses. The document? The Tablets. These tablets were G‑d's missive to His creations. The message etched in them liberated the world, freeing a dark and selfish humanity from its own mundaneness. The Charters of Freedom are the blueprint for democracy; the Tablets were the blueprint of creation.

Why did Moses break them?

Because there was something which he valued even more than the Tablets. The Tablets were a binding document which contained the prohibition against idolatry. In the absence of this document, Moses hoped to gain clemency for the few thousand Jews who were guilty of betraying G‑d by worshipping the Golden Calf. There was no inner struggle or turmoil on Moses' part. Yes, Moses loved the Torah dearly, certainly no one appreciated their value more than the one who received it from G‑d Himself, but he didn't hesitate even a moment. He broke the Tablets — although he had no way of knowing that G‑d would later agree to provide a replacement set of tablets — because he understood his responsibility as a Jewish leader, even to those Jews who could worship a golden calf only forty days after they had witnessed the Divine Revelation at Sinai.

Torah is great. A Jew is greater.

Until my visit to that rotunda in Washington DC, I never appreciated the enormity of Moses' sacrifice. I also now have an inkling of how much I am expected to treasure every Jew — even one who may be less than perfect.