Perfect and Broken

Perfect and Broken
By Rabbi Michael Birnholz
August 2018

This summer I was blessed to be faculty at the inaugural summer at Union for Reform Judaism 6 Points Creative Arts Academy in West Chester, Pennsylvania. This new summer camp brought Jewish young people from all over the country for 2 week sessions so they could experience learning about the arts from artists and weave Jewish values and stories into their work. As faculty, I acted to teach Jewish lessons that reinforced our arts activities and I joined with fellow faculty as we led moments of worship for the campers and staff. Every morning we started with our Modeh Ani Moments. Modeh Ani is a prayer said as we wake up, thanking God for being awake and alive for the new day. For this service we offered prayers for the body and the spirit. One of the texts we sang each morning was a version of Asher Yatzar by a musician named, Dan Nichols. While appreciating the fragility and resilience in the physical functions of our body, we utter the line, “I am perfect the way I am and a little broken too.” Every morning that line would strike me so powerfully. Sometimes I was standing, sometimes sitting, each time, feeling my surgically repaired knee flexing under me. I would start with my knee, knowing it was healing but not, even after all of these months, completely healed, but then I would take a deep breath and thinking about all of the other aches and pains that I have accumulated through life. These physical reactions would shift quickly my spiritual and emotional wrinkles and scars. Even if only for a few seconds, I could feel my brokenness and yet, feel the line of the song lift me up…I am perfect the way I am. I would take a deep breath, look past my flaws, physical or emotional, square my shoulders and draw on my spirit. From a place deep inside, I knew I had something unique to add to the world around me. If I offered my light and love, I could bring Shalom: harmony and peace, to myself and to those who crossed my path. In this moment, singing this song, was an acceptance of my limitations and human frailty, and a sense of transcendence and awe of the opportunity of my day. Leaving that service, with the words, “Perfect the way I am and a little broken too,” in my ear, I realized I wanted to honor that feeling, being proud of myself and patient with myself.

Each morning, as our prayers came to an end, I would be ready to head off to the dining hall for breakfast. As I formed up with the other folks from camp, I would see the stretches, the yawns and all other acts of waking up and getting moving. I knew they were taking stock – what’s working, what’s not, what am I looking forward too? They were feeling their humanness. In that moment, I understood that part of the work of that song is being able to mirror it back for others. We must work to realize that person in front of us perfect way they are and a little broken too…but also understanding that the wholeness and imperfections we need to accept in ourselves are a part of everyone who crosses our path. On top of that, we must be patient, for it’s not just that they are perfect and a little broken too, but the other’s perfection and flaws not necessarily the same as ours. We are each as unique as our fingerprint. It may seem obvious that our strengths and weakness, intelligences and deficits are unique too, but we often ignore that fact when we deal with others. As we come to terms with what it means to accept that we are “perfect the way I am and little broken too” let us be aware and patient with all of the people we meet as we go on our journey of life.