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Less is Moh(s)

The following is a speech given by Chativah Teacher Adam Kahn at a student's in-school Bat Mitzvah. Every time a student has a b'nai mitzvah, a teacher shares a meaningful and eloquent d'var Torah in their honor. This is one of the many beautiful speeches our teachers give, and it includes ideas about the Megillah.


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On behalf of the Chativah Staff, I want to wish a mazal tov to the entire Katz Newman family on the occasion of Ruby's Bat Mitzvah.


One of the ideals we strive for at Beit Rabban is strong connections with families (cited in Kind Community Pillar, statute 14b, amud bet). Connections between teachers and students and between teachers and parents. Whether middle school students and their parents have a strong connection all the time—well, one can dream. The idea is that the strength of these connections supports the educational mission. Ruby, your family - to me, over the five or six years I have known them- has always embodied that spirit.


At your most recent PTC, your parents and I talked about how you managed an academic task (very well).  One of your parents, I won't say who said that they would have done it exactly the same way that you did. What's funny is that your other parent said they would never have done it the way you did; in fact, they would have done it completely the opposite way. And I thought: wow. Here are parents who value their kids and their individuality, value their own individuality, value education, and treat children and teachers with tremendous kavod.


Ruby: While listening to the megillah this past weekend, I was struck by how many times I was reminded of you. Moments of boldness, cleverness, patience, bravery, and loyalty.

Especially in Esther's discretion, determination, and politely devious strategy, I saw a reflection of you.


Even after Haman is defeated, Esther presses Achashverosh for a new legal document, something signed and sealed, to be written up and sent to all of the provinces in the realm. This seems to be an important detail in the story. Important deals have to be in writing, correct? If you ever open a law firm, Ruby (as I predict you will), you might consider something from Megillat Esther for a name or slogan or something. I couldn't think of a good one, but I know two people who are extremely good at this kind of thing. You know, clever turns of phrase, creative wording, that kind of thing.


And there was one other connection that reminded me of you (and I have to thank Tzachi for planting this seed). There are at least two places in the megillah that have been interpreted to suggest that Achashverosh was in possession of objects that had been looted from the Beit Hamikdash. Does anybody know one?


There isn't consensus about the exact identity of the stones on the Choshen Mishpat (breastplate). But according to some, including Chabad, the first stone on the first row (stone 1A) is a .?.. Ruby. If Ruby were in a March Madness bracket, for example, it would be a one-seed.


What is so special about a Ruby? Why this prominent placement?


Scientists measure the hardness of a substance on a scale of one to ten, which is not proportional (hardness ten is actually 1,500 times harder than hardness 1). The scale was established by a German geologist, Friedrich Mohs, and it is known as the Mohs scale.

Only three pure substances on Earth are a ten on the Mohs scale. Diamond is the most famous of the three, but there are two other naturally occurring substances that are harder.

Ruby is a nine. Why, then, does Ruby earn the first spot on the choshen? If it's about the color, red diamonds do exist (for a price). And there are other red stones on the Choshen. Don't get me wrong, red is wow -amazing, but beauty is subjective. So it's not that.


One answer contains a hidden lesson that I think you embody, Ruby. (Esther means hidden)

Determination, resolve, the ability to stand for what you believe in, to say what you want, to say no - this is the hardness and effective power of a ruby. But flexibility, patience, the ability to adapt, compromise, and empathize, are equally important, and if that means a slight reduction on the proverbial Mohs scale to a score of nine, then maybe all of us should strive to be more like a ruby, or Ruby, than a diamond.


When it comes to human interaction and the hardness scale, you might say that, well, less is Moh(s).


Just a little less. Just like a ruby.


Mazal Tov.


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