Embracing the Divine Flaws Within Us

by Rabbi Jodie Siff

During these sacred days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, known as the Days of Awe, the focus traditionally is on introspection and reflection. Over time I have come to feel that this week is the ultimate ripping off of the band aide. The time of exposure of who we truly are. We have the choice of being vulnerable or not, bearing our true selves or not.

We just celebrated the New Year, so much joy, and yet we are collectively moving towards the day of atonement, so much sorrow. I am walking through this week wrestling with my own imperfection and trying to make meaning of these special days. In a world that often magnifies our flaws, I am going to try and delve into how my imperfections are not just defects, but pathways to deeper connections, growth, and spiritual enlightenment.

From the very beginning, we are reminded in Genesis that we are created “b’tzelem Elohim,” in the image of god. But how can our imperfections possibly reflect the divine? The answer lies within the very fabric of our beings, within the complexities that shape us. Ecclesiastes 7:20 “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never falters.” This verse from the Book of Ecclesiastes reflects the recognition that no human is entirely free from imperfection, highlighting the universal human condition of falling short of perfection.

We have all been confronted with the societal pressure and the personal pressure of achieving perfection. It is during those moments that I look to the words of Leonard Cohen: “Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” These words echo the teachings of Judaism – that our vulnerabilities, like the cracks in a vessel, allow the light of understanding, empathy, and growth to enter our neshamahs, our breath, and our souls.

These holy days provide space to delve into the depths of our being, embracing the spirituality within our imperfections. We have a chance during this liminal time to connect to our hearts, our bodies, our minds, to confront our mistakes and shortcomings. The Hebrew word “teshuvah,” often translated as repentance, truly means “returning.” It signifies that even in our weakest moments, we have the chance to return to ourselves. To embrace our authentic selves, full of all of the imperfections.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, said, “If you are not a better person tomorrow than you are today, what need have you for a tomorrow?” This encapsulates the essence of the days of awe – the belief that our imperfections are not chains that bind us, but bridges that propel us toward growth.

In our age of filtered images and carefully curated narratives, we often mask our imperfections. Yet, true spiritual depth flourishes in vulnerability. Our Torah teaches us that Jacob wrestled with an angel, resulting in both a wound and a blessing. Similarly, our struggles – our wounds – are sacred encounters that shape our character and reveal our authenticity.

As we stand on the cusp of a new year, may we resolve to embrace our imperfections. Let us recognize that our flaws are not roadblocks, but stepping stones on our sacred journey. Let us heed the words of the 13th-century Persian poet, Rumi: “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

As we come together on Yom Kippur may we all give voice to the beauty of our imperfections. Let us find strength in our weaknesses, growth in our mistakes, and a deep spirituality in the very essence of who we are.

Rabbi Jodie