“I hate my thighs.” “My bangs just won’t fall right.” “I need to earn more money.” “When did my hairline move so far back?” “I need to exercise.” “My family deserves more of my time.”  “My pores are too large.” “If only I had the skills for a better job.”

The list goes on and on and many of us would use stronger language than I wrote above. If you ask anyone, man or woman, (though you might need to ask men privately) they will tell you all they do not like about their lives, their actions or their bodies. We are far quicker to identify our life’s blemishes than to acknowledge our positive attributes. Yet, we do not give up, give in, or walk away from moving forward in life.

Near the beginning of this week’s parsha¸ there is a single line of text that reads “You shall not sacrifice to Adonai your G-d, a bull or a sheep in which will be any injury, any bad thing, because that is an offensive thing of Adonai your G-d.” (Deut. 17:1, translation by Richard Elliott Friedman).

Parshat Shoftim, before this line, speaks of our need to appoint judges and be fair in our decisions. After verse 17:1, the text goes on to speak of avoiding idol worship, cities of refuge, and other rules of behavior.

I have pondered this line this week, and wondered what exactly is offensive to Adonai. Is it the fact that we would sacrifice something less than perfect, or is it that we would consider removing from our world through sacrifice something less than ideal? I s G-d criticizing defects or reminding us that we must learn to accept that we and all of G-d’s creations are truly less than perfect?

G-d will not take from our midst all that is less than perfect; we must learn to accept imperfection in ourselves and in others. It is a reminder that all life is a gift and that each day brings us the opportunity to view ourselves and our circumstances through a lens of acceptance and abundance or of frustration and scarcity.

In this month of Elul, as we begin to reflect upon our failings, missteps and missed opportunities, let us also reflect on the many gifts that surround us. May we always see the beauty and grace that surrounds us and the unique talents others have to offer and may we always be grateful for this gift of life.

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