A Temporary High
Nobody is perfect because perfection is an ideal state that is unattainable in reality. Perfection implies flawless performance or behavior, which is impossible for humans because we are fallible beings.
We all have limitations, weaknesses, and imperfections, which make us human. Our environment, experiences, and biology shape us into unique individuals, and with this come differences in skills, abilities, and personalities. These differences mean that no two people are the same, and no one can meet every standard of perfection.
Furthermore, the pursuit of perfection can be counterproductive and lead to unrealistic expectations, stress, and disappointment. It is essential to recognize that making mistakes and learning from them is a crucial part of personal growth and development. Instead of striving for perfection, it is more productive and fulfilling to focus on personal growth and self-improvement.
Of course, that doesn’t stop people from sometimes going to extremes in their attempts to arrive at a perfect state. While laudable as a goal, this can often lead to artificial forms of perfectionism, placing ourselves in a temporary situation where everything seems to be perfect. This can come in the form of substance abuse and other extreme mind and psyche altering states, and it doesn’t take an expert to recognize the permanent harm such pursuits can cause.
Torah has many examples of man’s attempts at perfection, but it always comes with the caveat that it has to be perpetual lifelong pursuit, rather than something you reach quickly and artificially and then allow yourself to sit back.
We find this after the death of Aaron’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu, who had attempted to reach an extreme spiritual high without going through the process and following the proper steps. In fact, there is one version of the events of their passing that describes them as having entered the Temple inebriated, they were drunk, believing that getting high and placing themselves in an altered state of mind would help them in their spiritual journey.
They were obviously wrong about that, which is why they were consumed by a heavenly fire. But more importantly, soon after their passing, G-d reminded their father Aaron about the prohibition to enter the Temple drunk, and that attaining spirituality will not happen artificially. It has to be done in an orderly manner, and by following the rules.
That’s why the Torah goes off on a bit of a tangent after describing Nadav and Avihu’s passing, and teaches us about various mitzvahs associated with the work in progress that we are. First we read about the laws describing which animals are kosher and which aren’t, then we read about the laws of ritual impurity—how a person must go about removing himself from a state of defilement and return to an ideal pure state.
Only then does the Torah return to Aaron and his sons. It begins with a preface: After Aaron’s sons died because of their attempt at a quick spiritual high, Aaron was commanded to only enter the Holy of Holies (the innermost chamber of the Temple) on the holiest day of the year, on Yom Kippur.
Nadav and Avihu tried entering the Holy of Holies on a regular day, while being drunk and also while not wearing the appropriate garments required for the High Priest to enter. So Aaron was warned—don’t do what they did, don’t make the same mistake and assume that you can attain a spiritual high on your own terms.
Don’t try to escape reality by losing yourself in a temporary high, and don’t assume that there can be no spirituality in every mundane aspect of our lives. Rather, follow the rules of the Torah, ensuring that the spirituality and the practicality of Judaism work together to make the most perfect relationship we can have with G-d. We may not be perfect, but we can create the perfect effusion of holiness in our mundane life.