Perfection-The Purpose of Man
What is a person supposed to achieve in this world. What
should be his goals? Through the process of aging, G-d makes it clear to us that
our time is short. Every one of us has a purpose in this world, something
we’re here to accomplish before our time is up. It’s never too early to
Commenting on the blemishes that invalidate animals for
sacrifices, the Sforno points out that some of them are beneficial for the
animal. People would inflict them purposely to improve the animal, to make it
fatter or stronger or bigger. Why should that invalidate the animal for
sacrifice? When a blemish damages the animal it becomes inferior and
understandably unfit to be brought to G-d. But when an animal has been improved
in a fundamental way by a minor physical blemish, it would seem that the blemish
should be disregarded. After all, the animal is better than it was before.
The explanation, says the Sforno, is that the laws of
blemishes represent a fundamental principle of spiritual life in the service of
G-d. Our ultimate goal is to become G-d-like. G-d is perfect, and becoming like
Him, as best a human being can, is our perfection. Our purpose in life is to
achieve that perfection, and what we offer to G-d should represent our awareness
of this most fundamental principle of spiritual life.
The service of G-d involves thought, contemplation, prayer,
activity and material resources. We might be inclined to evaluate our service of
G-d by how much of these we have used, as though serving G-d with a lot of
thought was better than serving Him with less thought, etc. But it’s not true.
Regarding these vehicles of spiritual life, we are taught that quantity
doesn’t matter. What counts, what establishes the real worth of our spiritual
life, is the purity of our focus, the intensity of our dedication, the extent to
which the aspiration to perfection has impressed itself upon our inner life.
This principle is reflected in the law of blemishes. A
blemished animal may be fatter or stronger or bigger, but those quantitative
improvements violate the animal’s perfect form, its form as G-d created it.
The animal is unfit for sacrifice because G-d is not interested in the
quantities of what we offer him: not in the quantities of sacrifices we give Him
or the quantities of their size, their strength, etc. He wants quality, and
quality is measured by its approximation to the ideal, by the extent to which it
approaches perfection. For animals, the ideal is the form of the animal as G-d
made it. Nothing else counts. A blemished animal is unfit.
Let us take a case in halacha which demonstrates this idea. A
person has two challahs in front of him: A long wedding challah which has a
corner missing, and a small, but whole, roll. The halacha states that the
blessing should be made over the whole roll. It doesn’t have quantity, but it
is, as challahs go, perfect, and that is all the matters.
But in this world, of course, there is no perfection, and it
would seem that anyone who sets his heart on perfection is doomed to
frustration. His spiritual life will please G-d, but he will never achieve his
goal of being like G-d.
This objection is based on a mistaken idea of spiritual
perfection: what it is and how it is achieved. We do not have the means to
construct our own perfection. We have the means to elicit the response from G-d
that confers perfection. When we aspire to perfection, G-d responds by giving it
to us. We can sometimes discern signs of His gracious response even in this
world, but the full perfection which our devotion deserves cannot be conferred
in this world. This world was created for spiritual struggle. The perfection
which is the reward of our striving for perfection comes in the next world, a
world created for spiritual rewards. This is one of the ideas behind the
counting of the Omer. After we count forty-nine days of the Omer, G-d sanctifies
the fiftieth day.
Everything that G-d created is perfect in its own way. Just
as the perfection of sheep is not the perfection of cattle, the perfection of
one person is not the perfection of another. Each person has his own perfection.
Each person is G-dlike in a different way. His goals are different and also the
efforts required of him are different. “And you shall love the Lord your G-d
with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your property” – your
heart, your soul, your property: each according to the resources G-d gave him.
G-d knows what each person can be—what He had in mind when He created him –
and G-d gave him all the resources he needs to do his part to get there. The
only thing G-d wants from him is that he do his best. The best effort is the
only part of his perfection that should concern him. G-d will take care of the