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Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “The defect remains a defect.”

The Talmud (Hagiga 15a) recounts an interesting conversation between Elisha b. Avuya and Rabbi Meir.

Elisha b. Avuya asks Rabbi Meir to interpret the verse, “Gold and glass cannot match its value, nor can vessels of fine gold be exchanged for it” (job 28:17).

Rabbi Meir responds, “This refers to Torah matters, which, like vessels of gold, are hard to acquire, but like vessels of glass are easily lost.”

Elisha b. Avuya says to him, “Rabbi Akiva, your master, did not interpret that way, but, rather, ‘Both vessels of gold and vessels of glass, if broken, can be repaired.’”

One can melt them and form them anew.

But there are vessels – such as those of clay, mother of pearl, or even diamond – that, after being broken, remain forever broken.

One cannot do anything about it; the defect remains a defect.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz