When my children were young, they loved listening to me read to them. One of their favorite authors was Shel Silverstein and one of his books they loved most was called The Missing Piece. Briefly, the story is about a circle that is missing a sector. (For those who are mathematically challenged, a sector is like a wedge.) One day, the circle decided to go in search of its missing piece. The circle would roll along impaired by its missing piece. It could not roll very fast. But that allowed the circle to talk to the worms and the flowers. Time passed. Finally, the circle finds its missing piece. Now the circle can speed along. But now the circle cannot talk to the worms and flowers. A lesson from this story is that not everything that is broken is valueless. Consider the Biblical narrative.
Moses descends from Sinai with the two Tablets of stone in hand. He hears a strange sound coming from camp. His apprentice, Joshua, explains that the sound comes from the revelers who constructed a Golden Calf in his absence and are now worshipping it in song and dance. In his anger and disappointment, Moses smashes the Tablets that God had given him. Later we learn that the shattered pieces were not discarded. They were collected and placed in the Ark along with the replacement set. The question, of course, is of what use are the broken pieces? The writing upon them is no longer legible and besides, a new copy is there for reference.
It is here that Silverstein’s story is applicable. For the circle, the missing piece created an opportunity. Though the circle could not roll along smoothly, the missing piece afforded it the time to interact with others and appreciate the things in life that are too often overlooked in the rushed organization of our lives. For the Israelites, the broken tablets are retained in order to emphasize everything that comes from God is valuable in any form, that mistakes are only fatal when nothing is learned from them, and that a nation can only be made whole by keeping what was broken.
Reading of the broken pieces that are retained, every Jew is afforded the opportunity to reflect on the broken pieces in life and how what is broken has shaped our character.