Bringing Out Our Best

Yael Eckstein  |  January 20, 2021

Flame of fire around a coin.

That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. — Exodus 12:8

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Bo, which means “come,” from Exodus 10:1–13:16.

I once read an article by a woman who described her experience exploring a gold mine in South Africa. In the mine, her guide pointed out that there were still remnants of gold. The woman shined her flashlight around the cave and came across flecks of gold. Sure that she had spotted the real thing, she pointed it out to the guide. However, the guide laughed and explained that she was looking at “fool’s gold.” It looked like gold, but it wasn’t the real thing.

Next, the guide pointed out a tiny black rock and explained that it was authentic gold. He described the process of turning it into gold as we know it. First, the rock is crushed and pulverized into powder. Then cyanide, a poisonous substance, is added. Many more steps follow until the gold achieves its true golden hue.

Bringing Out Our Best

In this week’s Torah portion, we learn that God commanded the Israelites to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt every year by eating the meat of the Passover lamb together with bitter herbs and matzo, unleavened bread.

The Jewish sages explained that while the Passover lamb and the matzah are symbols of redemption, the bitter herbs represent oppression. However, God commanded us to put both symbols together so that we remember one of the most powerful lessons of the Exodus story: That our difficulties and our victories are all part of the same story.

Just as gold cannot become gold without going through a refinement process, so, too, do our challenges refine us and bring out our best.

Don’t be fooled by those who walk around looking like gold. There are people who look good but that doesn’t mean that they are good. There are people that look happy, but that doesn’t mean that they are truly content. Like “fool’s gold,” people can appear one way, but in reality, be something completely different. Most of the best people in the world have gone through a refinement process. They’ve gone through hard times and come out better on the other side.

Instead of resenting the difficulties in our lives, we should embrace them. God brings out the best in us through our challenges. Even when we feel crushed by our problems, God is turning us into something beautiful and invaluable.

Your Turn:

Can you think of a hardship in your life that ultimately made you into a better person? How does that help you approach the challenges you face today?

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