experiments, instruments & measurement book

Worth your Weight?


By Cyd Weissman

Have you ever heard the phrase “Worth your weight in gold”?  Gold is very high right now and without giving away my weight, I will say according to today’s prices, I’m worth over 2.5 million dollars. Feeling pretty millionaire right now.

gold 2

Rabbi Shai Held, at Yachdav, taught over 100 educators, lay leaders and clergy that  self worth that is “comparative or competitive is fool’s gold.” Of course he wasn’t talking about comparisons  per troy ounce. Rather he was referring to the most common practice that each of us has. We hold a core belief of self that our worth comes from the  I’m smarter-more beautiful-more-successful-than-others-standard. Or the opposite is true as well. I’m less worthy because I’m less-intelligent-beautiful-successful-standard.

I still remember as if it were today, my minimal shameful value on that standard in seventh grade math. Mrs. Dyer would call out the test scores, Larry Shtasel, 97; Ricky Margolius 92, Cyd Gold –yes my maiden name is Gold–61. (I totally had a crush on Larry… tall with a smile and he could divide… had my first kiss with Larry even though I couldn’t divide)

“It’s fool’s gold,” said Rabbi Held to believe that your sense of self-worth comes from such a standard. He spoke about his experience as the Harvard Hillel rabbi. The freshmen class was regularly in his office suffering from the discovery that they were just average. As high school seniors they were the valedictorians. As Harvard freshmen they were just like everyone else. So what was their value?

According to Rabbi Held’s teaching of Jewish text, we can know authentic self worth by realizing 

  • No one in the history of the world until now, and no person in all the history of world to come will be just like you.
  • God, with a great love, created us uniquely- given each of us unique gifts
  • We are loved-greatly- by God in our singularity and uniqueness
  • This is our worth
  • Self worth is not something you earn… you have to attempt to live up to it… this is our responsibility in life
  • “God’s love is a call to service, and we answer not as human beings in general but as human beings in all of our particularity.”

In a culture that insists on comparisons, how can we possibly develop self worth based on our uniqueness?


Parents can make a difference, according to Rabbi Held.

“Next time someone asks, ‘How is your daughter?’ don’t answer, she got this so and so award, say she helped someone this week.”

“I tell my son,” Rabbi Held said, “that Abba and Mommy love him very very much. And knowing that in some way someday I will disappoint him, miss that mark of love in some way, I tell him that God loves him even more. In this way my son will always know that love.”

We as educators can also play a role. What would our settings look like if they were designed to help a child know his or her unique gifts? What would children experience when they entered the spaces of Jewish learning that expressed God’s love for them? What does Jewish space feel like that helps a child know a self worth that has nothing to do with trophies and grades, popular and not popular? Rabbi Held writes, “A real teacher works with her students’ individuality in two ways: She teaches in a way that the student can hear and learn, and she elicits from him his own unique insights and inspiration.”

That’s our exploration this year. Taking on the charge of Rabbi Held, The Coalition of Innovating Congregations will experiment, and learn what it takes to help children and parents have a language, an experience and an expectation of self worth without comparison.

Let’s start to play with this. What is one thing you could do to help a child flip his/her sense of self worth on its head?

To follow Rabbi Held’s teaching sign up for his weekly writings HERE.

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