Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
He lied to me. Yep, that’s right. A person I looked up to and admired lied straight to my face. At first, I was pretty ticked off. Then, I felt disappointed. Later, I was just plain sad. I’m not really sure how to process this. I want to resolve my feelings, but am finding it difficult to get past this moment.
People are fallible. They make mistakes. None of us is perfect. I know all these things to be true and, eventually, I will let this go. But, while I struggle to do this, I am desperate for some guidance. Enter our sages!
“For there is not one righteous person on earth who does only good and does not err,” Ecclesiastes reminds us (Ecclesiastes 7:20). This is a fact of our humanity. The question is not if, but when we stumble will we right our steps? Will we acknowledge our wrongs and straighten our path? Of course, this is what Yom Kippur is all about. The beauty of this quote from Ecclesiastes is that it reminds us that this is an everyday obligation. Most of us don’t transgress only once in a year (would if that were true!). We need this reminder. It gives us hope that though we may falter, we are always capable of being better- and so is everyone else. I need to remember this even while I am stunned by the reality of my role model’s failings. If I cut every person out of my life who I felt failed me in some way, I would live a very lonely existence. I shouldn’t let a person’s mistakes blind me to their strengths.
I find further guidance in Pirke Avot, “Do not disparage anyone, and do not shun anything. For there is no person who does not have his hour and no thing that does not have its place.”
Our sages understood that every person has the ability to do harm or good with their words and actions. This ability instructs us to actively strive, every day, to choose to do good, making a positive impact on others and our world.
Each of us has beauty in our souls. And, each of us needs to be open to seeing that beauty in others. Jacob Spike Kraus, in his song What Makes You Glow, puts this sentiment beautifully to music, quoting Pirke Avot 4:3. The song is inspiring and emboldens us to live the values our ancestors profess. What better time than on Hanukkah, the festival of lights, for us to discover that glow in ourselves and others, filling the world with warmth, kindness, and hope.