Many years ago I had a cat named Loki. He earned that name. He was fiercely mischievous, often wreaking havoc in the middle of the night.
One night, he knocked my mother’s old sugar bowl off the counter, breaking the lid into a couple of pieces. The bowl meant a great deal to me as it represented a small piece of my family history. I glued it back together and now, when I see that imperfect lid, with its crack lines and the yellowing glue, I remember both my mom as she was then, and that crazy cat.
The object has become more meaningful with the damage.
This week’s Torah portion has a piece of that broken sugar bowl. The portion describes how Moses is on Mount Sinai speaking with God about how things will go. When he returns, carrying the first set of Commandments, which were written by God, Moses encounters the Israelites celebrating the golden calf they created in his absence. Moses is enraged at the blasphemy he witnesses, and he smashes those tablets.
Later in the portion, God instructs Moses to inscribe the second set of tablets.
But whatever happened to that smashed first set? The ones actually written by the Divine? There is a study written long after that time which suggests that the broken pieces were placed into the Ark of the Covenant, along with the second set. It would make sense to keep things written by the Divine. They would serve perhaps as a warning and sign of hope. The warning would be of the consequences that humans can destroy even godly things.
The sign of hope is that those imperfect shards have enough meaning to be in close association with the Covenant of God.
We are not perfect people. But just as the Israelites gathered up those shards broken in anger and kept them safe, so has God kept us. We are in the presence of the Divine every day, surrounded by the air and environment created so long ago and evolving around us, even as we adapt and evolve though time. Remember, we have moved from lives lit by candles and powered by horses, to a people with an amazing array of technology that allows us to communicate and travel, virtually and literally, as never before.
We are not a perfect people. As we witness the Olympics play out with highly trained athletes striving for gold medals, we will see perfect 10s given. But, no matter how well the athletes perform, each of them knows that they have room for improvement. They have faith that continued hard work, discipline and practice will lead to a better performance.
We are not perfect people, and most of us are not Olympic athletes. We each carry the flaws and imperfections we’ve accumulated during our time on Earth. Those flaws make us who and what we are. Hopefully, we also carry knowledge and faith of our association with the Divine.
If that is the case, perhaps, with faith and a memory of that association, we can work every day to live closer to that Presence, and strive to live each day as a meaningful blessing in how we treat those we encounter.
Edie Yakutis works with Ritual Life at Temple Solel in Fort Mill. Contact her firstname.lastname@example.org.