by Cantor Emma Lutz

As we begin our annual preparation for the High Holy Days, we often do ourselves a disservice when we imagine that we might somehow finally transform into perfect beings this year during our process of teshuvah, repentance. Indeed, teshuvah itself is our own recognition that we were not perfect in the past year, and yet, we still seek to better ourselves and our relationships.

Instead of aiming for perfection, how might we attempt to reach for shalom and shleimut — peace and wholeheartedness — in our relationships with others and with ourselves? I love this quote on wholeheartedness from researcher and storyteller, Dr. Brené Brown:

Wholehearted living is about engaging with our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’ It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.

Brown invites us to consider how living wholeheartedly, with a sense of shalom, allows for us to be our truly imperfect but best selves. Even if our teshuvah is imperfect in its delivery, if it comes from a sincere and vulnerable place, it will be warmly received by our loved ones and
by God.