REBO D’var Torah – Parshas Vayeira by Sarah Engel

Posted on October 30, 2015

sarah engel

Embrace Your Imperfection

Wouldn’t it be nice to be perfect? I’m just saying, it would be great to know that I could always ace my tests, or that I would always excel spiritually. Unfortunately, that’s almost never the case for anyone, especially me. It took me a while before I realized that perfection is totally unattainable, and on the rare occasion that I do manage to succeed in one area of my life, it most definitely means that I am lacking in another.

This sentiment is echoed in this week’s parsha. Avraham Avinu has just performed the mitzvah of brit milah (circumcision) and is recovering in his tent when Hashem sends angels to come and visit him. The angels are described with a grammatical inconsistency.  Normally, when describing someone’s desires, the text will say “levavchem” meaning “your hearts” whereas here, the text merely says “libchem” which means “your heart” in singular. Rashi (Famous Medieval Biblical Commentary) picks up on this phenomenon, and explains that usually when the Torah describes a person and their desires, there is an inner conflict between doing right (the Yetzer HaTov) and doing wrong (the Yetzer HaRa), this conflict of interests or multiple desires leads the Torah to describe a person with “levavchem” or “multiple hearts”.  Rashi explains that the reason why the visiting angels are described with the term “libchem” or “your [one] heart” is because angels have no evil inclination, they are purely spiritual beings that exist solely to perform G-d’s will. Sounds nice right? Honestly, I would love to never be tempted to skip davening again, but that’s not the case for humans, we are inherently imperfect beings.
Humans have a yetzer hara, an evil inclination, that tries to justify wrongdoing and bring us farther away from G-d. This can be seen initially as a shortcoming, it is almost impossible for humans to reach perfection as we are not angelic. We have this constant voice inside of us nagging us to do the wrong thing. To be perfectly honest, having an evil inclination is kind of annoying sometimes.
However, there’s another way of looking at it. Angels are described as “standing” while humans are described as “walking.” Angels may be perfect, but as a result of their perfection they never get to experience the thrill of growth and development. Angels are righteous by default, yet humans can climb to an even higher level by exerting tremendous effort to slowly attain righteousness step by step.
Maybe it’s not actually about perfection. Maybe all G-d cares about is seeing us try our best to grow and come closer to Him. Maybe it’s time we as humans embrace our imperfection as a Divine gift, for with imperfection comes tremendous opportunity for growth. It would be nice to be an angel, but I think it’s even nicer to be a human with an evil inclination, for that moment when I finally prevail over my flaws and attain a bit of spiritual growth is a moment even more precious than perfection.
Shabbat Shalom!

Sarah Engel, National Board President, West Coast Regional Board VP of Campaign Programming