Embracing Our Imperfections
By Rabbi Joshua S. Taub
The chief executive of a large company was greatly admired for his energy and drive. But he suffered from one embarrassing weakness: each time he entered the president’s office to make his weekly report he would wet his pants!
The kindly president advised him to see an urologist at company expense. But when he appeared before the president the following week, his pants were wet again! “Didn’t you see the urologist?” Asked the president.
“No, he was out. I saw a psychiatrist instead, and I’m cured,” the executive replied. “I no longer feel embarrassed!”
– The Spirituality of Imperfection, Kurtz & Ketchem
Imperfection is a reality of our existence. While my mother insists I am perfect, Ralph Waldo Emerson more accurately speaks the truth when he says “there is a crack in everything God has made.” It can be a revelatory moment in our lives when we recognize and embrace our imperfections. After all, it is only through our “cracks” that God’s light is able to shine and illuminate the world.
A challenging and even troubling text confronts us in parashat Emor: No man among the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a defect shall be qualified to offer the Lord’s offering by fire; having a defect he shall not be qualified to offer food to his God. [Leviticus 21:21]
Masculine language aside, and given the notion that we are all a “kingdom of priests,” what do we make of this verse and others in this chapter? Body image is a struggle for both men and women at any and every age. Our text doesn’t use any words that imply or describe physical beauty (or lack thereof) that qualifies someone for sacred service, but when we hear or read the word “defect,” it easily leads us to consider a variety of physical traits that swimsuits don’t conceal.
No one has a perfect body; we are all “defective” in some way. If we are all imperfect, perhaps the text is imperfect as well? Like the business executive with the wet pants, when we embrace the text with its imperfection and limitations we need not reject it as archaic and irrelevant. Instead this is our invitation and our opportunity to re-imagine and reinvent the voice of our ancient tradition.
We are not perfect and yet we consider ourselves created B’tzelem Elohim, “in the image of God.” We may not be perfect servants, but that does not mean our service to God must be imperfect as well.
When we offer to God the best we have; when we offer our gifts with a whole heart, with gratitude, and humility; we offer perfect service, and we will experience the spirituality of imperfection.
We all have our flaws; may God’s light shine through every one of them and illuminate our world.
May the light of the Shabbat candles brighten all of our lives.
Rabbi Joshua S. Taub, Temple Emanuel, Beaumont, Texas