What was the true value of the precious stones (evanai shoham v’evanai meluim) used in making the Ephod and the Breastplate? In order to evaluate their worth we must understand how and where they came from.
Such stones could not be mined in the desert, others were so rare one would have to travel the world to find them. However, rather than having us search for these stones, Hakodesh Baruch Hu removed them from His heavenly table, wrapped them in clouds, and sent them to us special delivery (Or Hachaim 25:6).
Since the evanai shoham v’evanai meuluim are so precious, we would expect them to be used first for building the Mishkan. Yet we start with gold, silver, copper, etc. Next comes aromatic incense, which is commonly found in the desert. Finally, the precious stones are mentioned. Why are they last?
The answer is that the gifts were listed in terms of the mesirus nefesh that Am Yisrael infused into each one. Gold takes the most energy to mine and shape, next is silver, then copper, ending in gathering and preparing incense. The precious stones were at the bottom of the list because they contained no mesirus nefesh, after all they were delivered by the clouds of glory which were protecting Am Yisrael.
How do you think Hashem measures the value of our actions? By what standard are we rewarded for our good deeds? We are taught “according to the effort is the reward”. A person should never feel that their efforts to come close to Hashem go unnoticed. Whether the deed is big or small, in private or in public, Hashem will always take into account our efforts.
Even the incense, which was gathered from common vegetation found in the dessert and was burned in the mishkan had greater value in Hashem’s eyes than the evanai shoham v’evanai meulim, due to the meseris nefesh involved in its collection and production.
Too often women are overlooked on Purim. While the men are busy enjoying the Purim seudah and running around giving out meshelach manos, it’s the Aishes Chail that remains at home taking care of the children and cleaning up the mess we men make. No task is menial for her because it’s done l’shaim shamayim. We all understand the great reward that our wives, mothers and daughters receive in this world and the next for their efforts, yet that doesn’t mean we should be encouraged to give them more work to do! Quite the contrary, this Purim drink responsibility and behave honorably!