In Search of Perfection
Thank God our prayers do not have to be as perfect as the animals brought as offerings! “Any in which there is a blemish you shall not offer, for it will not be favorable to you.” Imagine how we would feel if our prayers could not suffer any blemish: How would we be able to pray? Would a moment of lost concentration be considered a blemish? Would a wondering mind invalidate our words? What about words recited without thinking about their meaning? Would a depressed person’s prayer be damaged? What about an angry person?
It is sad to see how many people believe just that: They are convinced that their prayers are, at the very least, ineffective because of their “Blemishes.” I often hear people say, “I didn’t pray that well, because my mind was somewhere else, I blew it!”
Thank God we do not have to be as perfect as the Cohanim performing the service in the Mishkan! “God spoke to Moshe, saying: Speak to Aaron, saying, ‘Any man of your offspring throughout their generations in whom there will be a blemish shall not come near to offer the bread of his Lord.’” (Leviticus 21:16-17) Imagine how we would feel if we were expected to be without blemish when we served God: How many of us would feel comfortable taking our three steps forward into God’s Throne Room? All three steps would be hesitant, not just the first. Instead of using the second and third steps to rush into the arms of the One Who most loves us, and sees us at our best and full potential, we would drag our feet into the meeting with God.
The Sforno actually says, “God wants perfection from His servants, in the spiritual and moral sense, and from His offerings in the physical sense.” Are we in trouble?
The Talmud adds some blemishes to the list of Cohanim who may not bless the people because of their physical imperfections. For example, a Cohen who works in a tannery and who has the colors of the chemicals splashed all over him, may not rise to bless the people, unless..
…everyone in the synagogue works in the tannery and has the same discoloration. “Dash bei rabim,” “The fire burns publicly,” – people are so accustomed to having strange colors all over each other, that it will not distract people from the Cohen’s blessing. The people facing the Cohen will not see the color splashes as a blemish.
One of the most magnificent parts of prayer is that God does not see our imperfections as blemishes. He sees that as something constant with human beings. “Dash bei rabim.” We focus on our imperfections more than does God!
“In whom there is a blemish,” teaches us that the Cohen is only disqualified as long as he is blemished. The glory of prayer is that at the moment we take those three steps into God’s Throne room, all the blemishes disappear. They are only temporary.
An offering is a living being that is separate from me. If I am going to present a physical gift to God, I must search for something as close as possible to perfection.
However, proper prayer is not something outside of ourselves, it is the expression of the deepest part of our souls, and God, as we said, opens His arms to receive us at our absolute best. At that moment of meeting, the Ultimate Being sees us as we would be having developed all our potential to our fullest ability.
That’s just perfect for me!
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