“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
– from the song “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen
In many ways, the High Holidays are a counter-cultural experience for Americans who are brought up to be strong, successful, and ruggedly individualistic. Seemingly in opposition to this ethos are Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which are meant to inspire us to recognize our vulnerability, fallibility, interdependence, and imperfection.
Human beings, of course, can be both be fierce and fallible, imperfect and strong. But many of us prefer to focus on our successes rather than our pain or missteps, because we feel embarrassed or ashamed to bare our brokenness to the world.
The High Holidays come around again and again to teach us this: Show your true self to the world, the parts you’re proud of and the parts you want to repair. In order to live a meaningful life—in order to actually be whole—embrace both your brokenness and your drive for perfection.
“There is nothing so whole as a broken heart,” says a bittersweet Chasidic teaching. Or in the words of one of the more famous “rabbis” of the 20th century, Leonard Cohen, the cracks can be beautiful, too.
In 5780, honor the fullness of who you are, letting more light in and turning it outwards to illuminate a brighter year for us all.