Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous,
no one who does what is right and never sins. — Ecclesiastes 7:20
One day a handyman was working in my home hanging up some family photos when I noticed that the wall and the ceiling didn’t actually meet up at a perfect angle. I had never noticed it before, but now that I was paying attention to hanging the photos straight, it suddenly dawned on me that the wall was slightly crooked. Thinking I might be imagining things, I asked the handyman if he noticed it, too.
He confirmed that my eyes were not playing tricks on me and that the wall was not perfectly aligned with the celling. “But how could that be?” I asked, wondering how in this day and age such a simple task could fall short of being done perfectly. “Let me tell you something,” said the handyman, “there ain’t nothing in this world that is perfect.”
Those words really struck me. Not just because of the realization that even the finest works of architecture possessed flaws, but because I felt like that man was talking to my soul. Like many folks, I have strived to be perfect. And trying to be flawless is such a heavy burden to bear because it’s impossible to ever achieve perfection.
By definition, being human means making mistakes. As Ecclesiastes puts it: “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.”
The recognition that nobody is perfect, and so we won’t be either, is a huge relief. Moreover, accepting our limitations allows us to go beyond them. When we strive for perfection, we set ourselves up for a lifetime of disappointment, low self-esteem, and failure. But when we aim for excellence or progress or any other type of self-improvement, we are headed toward becoming the best that we can be.
In the Jewish Oral Tradition there is the following saying: “He who reaches for too much grasps nothing, but he who reaches for a little, grasps all.” No one is saying that we shouldn’t dream big, but the Jewish sages were teaching that our steps toward our goals need to be manageable if we are going to get anywhere.
Sometimes, it takes a healthy dose of humility to start small, but anything big that was ever achieved started from humble beginnings. As Scripture teaches: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin . . .” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT).
Today, together, let’s give up on trying to be perfect and rather commit ourselves to being our best. Remember, even the holiest of men and women have made mistakes. God doesn’t ask us to be perfect. Our job is to work on becoming better; perfection belongs only to God.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President