“Who you are is God’s gift to you; who you become is your gift to God.”
The Torah tells the stories of a whole collection of people who were not perfect, who were grappling with personal problems and difficult situations. Their greatest character strengths proved also to be their greatest weaknesses and challenges. Abraham had to deal with the pitfalls of being too giving. Isaac struggled with being too restrained and submissive. Young Joseph’s youthful spontaneity only aggravated his brothers. Even the great leader Moses lost his temper. Nobody is perfect. And yet these people are held up as models for us to emulate. Why? Because they all struggled with their imperfections and the problems of the world. And they did an incredible job of living dynamic lives of growth. They were masters of growth.
The Talmud points out that “the Torah wasn’t given to angels,” and King Solomon teaches that “there is no righteous man on earth who doesn’t err.” Nowhere does it say that anybody is expecting you to be perfect. All that’s expected of you is that you strive to be better—that you strive in the direction of perfection. The Torah readily acknowledges that the human being has a lot of conflicting energies and drives. Indeed, the Talmud states that Hashem created in the world not only a drive for good, but also a drive for evil and the antidote for it as well—the Torah.
Without these conflicting drives, a human being would have no freedom of choice—nothing to choose between, nothing to overcome in the quest to get better, no way to participate in the process of self-creation. With all the combustion that occurs as a result of those conflicting energies, you can explode. Or, if you know how to direct them, those energies can propel you forward. This is the purpose of the Torah. In fact, the word “Torah” comes from the Hebrew word yorah, which means “to teach” but also “to shoot.” The Torah teaches us how to shoot forward in our lives. That’s what we are here to be doing—moving forward, growing, growing closer to perfection. [An excerpt from Endless Light]