click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Perfect Flaws

Perfect Flaws

Life – and the people in it – are not perfect. They're not supposed to be.


I just recorded a children’s CD with my friend and colleague Linda. While the sound engineer was doing the mix, I was grimacing at the mistakes. He shook his head and said wisely, “The whole beauty of art is that it’s not perfect.”

Real life is not perfect, nor is it meant to be. The flaws are part of their beauty.

There is a popular inspirational email called Crackpots. It tells the story of a water pail that had a crack; it felt inferior because it was always leaking water. Then it was pointed out that it’s been watering the earth and helping flowers grow along the path.

Nowadays there’s a lot of stress on perfection. We seek the perfect job, the perfect mate, the perfect look. Advertising is geared toward making us feel imperfect (unless we use their product!) and there are books and seminars to improve every aspect of our personal and professional lives. The message: flaws are undesirable.

I once worked for a plastic surgeon. He had a book of photos of celebrities which showed what they would look like if their faces were in perfect symmetry (people’s faces generally aren’t). These celebrities weren’t nearly as interesting or beautiful. The whole nature of their character and individuality lied in the flaws in their features.

Celebrating Flaws

Sefirat HaOmer, the weeks between Passover and Shavuot, is observed as a time of mourning for the students of Rabbi Akiva who died in a plague. During this time, 24,000 Torah scholars died because they didn’t show each other sufficient honor.

Why do people not honor each other? Why do we gossip, criticize, even condemn others? Because in our eyes, they are not perfect. They – their faces, their bodies, even their personalities – are flawed. They are, in short, human.

And so are we. Although we are put on this earth to perfect it and ourselves, perfection isn’t a prerequisite to perfecting. Nor is it necessarily defined as “having no flaws.” It means using our flaws for the good. Using our anger, for example, not to yell at our friends and families, but rather to fight injustice. It means smiling with warmth – even without perfectly straight, white teeth. It means singing from the heart, if perhaps not always perfectly on key. It means being the unique person you are, and loving others for the unique person they are – warts and all.

Rabbi Akiva is known for the credo “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Actually that’s not an exact translation. The Hebrew word ray’ah is more correctly translated as “friend.” Interestingly, it has the same letters as rah (bad). Whether we perceive someone as bad or as our friend depends on where we put the stress.

When the Jewish nation received the Torah on Shavuot, they stood united – one soul, one heart, one spirit. Three million people, 12 tribes, young and old, men and women, with one purpose: to receive the Torah.

Rabbi Akiva taught that the primary purpose of Torah is to teach us to serve God by loving one another unconditionally.

I noticed one other thing when we were doing the mix. In the parts where Linda sang with me in harmony, I was more on pitch. We all have our weaknesses. But when we sing together – harmonizing our individual melodies, with all their varied colors and imperfections, nuances and timbres – we produce a song that is truly beautiful, heartfelt, and divinely flawless.

April 30, 2011

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Brenda Doubet, May 28, 2011 2:47 PM

Great advice

Thank you for this reminder.

(4) suzzanne nemick, May 2, 2011 12:33 AM

Love your neighbor/friend as yourself......defined

The older I get the more I need these lessons from my childhood.

(3) Jerry, May 1, 2011 10:34 PM

Face Book=The great Masquerade

I serve my Shul as Draschmeister. I will be dealing with this issue in a few weeks. My postulation is that we are who we are and not the masks that camouflage us. The social network craze stresses artifical hypes, trying to sell ourselves to others. Similarly the E-Dating is a distortion of truth, often using our High School Grad pix, even after 40 years have since passed. Madison Ave has infected us, to our detriment.

(2) ruth housman, May 1, 2011 7:35 PM

The flaws that bind

A friend of mine was going to call a Memoir by this title, as in the one line summary, and I think it was a good title for a book, because yes, we are not perfect, and in any case, What IS perfect? I think we can work towards being better people towards each other and the environment. Perfect itself is boring. I love a bit of mischief on the side, because it's the seasoning of life, and humor, and practical jokes that do not harm, and being "bad" is often, not about hurt, but about play. It could be said, that in its imperfections, the world is perfect.

(1) Mordechai, May 1, 2011 3:29 PM

Truly a masterpiece!

I think you are exacltly correct about perfection. The Torah even recounts the mistakes our forefathers made in the Torah. As holy as they were, they were human. Sometimes, I feel this need to be perfect or flawless in serving G-d. It's like "one false move and you're cut off for ever." Your article made me think and I'm sure it will do much for others who feel the same way. Love Your Neighbor as Yourself is one of my favorite sayings in the Torah. I always say that before you can love another person, you have to learn to love and forgive yourself.(flaws and all). Love your neighbor(the one who may not be perfect but we judge him favorably) as Yourself(that even with my own flaws and imperfeciions, I can forgive myself and, thereby, love and forgive others the same way." Thank you.

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment