At the Sami Rohr book prize ceremony in Jerusalem, the winners summarized what they had learned in writing their works. Yehuda Mirsky, author of a beautiful biography of Rav Kook, said movingly: “I was just astonished that such a person could exist. Someone at once so deep and so good.”
His comment reminded me of the statement of famed psychiatrist Karl Menninger in his journals — that he didn’t believe in God but he believed in the tzaddik, the righteous person. Yet a truly righteous person is a path to God; in our tradition God is manifested less in miracles and more through the actions of human beings. When we encounter someone of the stature of Rav Kook, his light reflects back above.
Sometimes it is harder to have faith in human beings than to have faith in God. Yet we are not only called to be good, but to see good. There are no flawless people, and we do a disservice to the tzaddik when we pretend they are perfect. Let us be moved instead by the vision of a struggling human being who reaches heights and plumbs depths that can inspire us all with the souls that God creates.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).