THE CENTRALITY OF THE
HEART IS NOTHING NEW
THE CENTRALITY OF THE
HEART IS NOTHING NEW
Pirkei Avos [Ethics Of The Fathers] tells
us that all good things in life are contained in a good heart and all bad things in life
are contained in a bad heart. Having a good heart is the way of life that a person should
attach himself to and having a bad heart is the way of life from which a person should
distance himself from (chapter two).
King Solomon tells us quite
straightforwardly, "There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)."
Every essential thing of every description has been in the world and has continued as long
as there has been time. That goes for the centrality of the heart and all that it includes
and stands for.
Shevuos is the time of the giving of the
Torah, which Chazal say was an analogy to marriage. Just as a bride and groom go under a
chupa, the Jewish people were under Mount Sinai as if G-d were the groom and we were the
bride, making a non-ending commitment to each other. The Jewish people camped before the
mountain [Exodus 19:2] and were ready with perfect unity to accept G-d's Torah. The
midrash [Mechilta] says that they were AS ONE PERSON WITH ONE HEART. Unity, to the deepest
of levels, the HEART, further symbolizes the essence of marriage.
Although the Torah never needs secular
support or verification, it is nice to know that a scientific study, concluded in 1997,
established that the brain is no longer to be considered the main or controlling organ of
the body. The heart was found to produce one thousand times the measure of electrical
energy and has the greatest control over the functioning of the body. The heart is the
foundation of life, whether in Torah or biological terms.
Since the Torah knows how to speak for
itself, let me share a small sampling of the several hundreds of life-defining statements
from the Written Torah, Oral Torah and rabbinic tradition that teach us about the Jewish
heart, which is central to life and to successful marriage.
I will bring approximately 100
authoritative Torah sources from TaNaCH, Siddur, Talmud and the rabbinical tradition. Just
from the following samples, the reader will get an overview of the meaning of heart in the
Torah, and some understanding of the Torah's attention to and emphasis of the heart...and
how to apply having a good heart to practical life.
* All inclination of the thoughts of his
HEART are only evil (Genesis 6:5).
* The inclination in man's HEART is evil
from his youth (Genesis 8:21).
* "And now do not fear, I will feed
you and your children;" and he [Yosef, speaking to his brothers] comforted them and
he spoke to their HEART (Genesis 50:21).
* And you will speak to all who have a wise
HEART (Exodus 28:3).
* All who have a generous HEART (Exodus
* You will not hate your brother [fellow
Jew] in your HEART (Leviticus 19:17).
* And you will know today and place it into
your HEART (Deuteronomy 4:39).
* And these words which I command you today
are to be in your HEART (Deuteronomy 6:6).
* Then your HEART will grow haughty and you
will forget the L-rd your G-d (Deuteronomy 8:14).
* And now, Israel, what does the L-rd your
G-d ask of you except that you fear the L-rd your G-d, to go in all of His ways and to
love Him and to serve the L-rd your G-d with all your HEART (Deuteronomy 10:12).
* Cut away the blockage surrounding your
HEART, and your necks will be stiff no more (Deuteronomy 10:16).
* [Punishments come] because you did not
serve the L-rd your G-d with joy and a good HEART (Deuteronomy 28:47).
* As of this day, G-d has given you a HEART
to know, and eyes to see and ears to hear (Deuteronomy 29:3).
* Man sees the outer appearance and G-d
sees the HEART (1 Samuel 16:7).
* Thus says the L-rd of Hosts, G-d of
Israel, "Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat meat [i.e. all
sacrifices of those who disobey Torah are rejected by G-d], because I did not speak to
your ancestors, and I did not command them, on the day when I took them out of Egypt,
about burnt offerings and sacrifices. It was on this thing that I commanded them saying,
'Obey My voice and I will be your G-d and you will be My nation, and you will act
according to all of the way which I will command you in order that it be well for you.'
And they did not obey and they did not bend their ear and they went in the counsels and
scheming of their evil HEART, and they went backwards and not forwards" (Jeremiah
* The sorrow that is upon me is beyond
comforting, my HEART is anguished (Jeremiah 8:18).
* And I will give you a new HEART and I
will put a new spirit within you and I will remove your HEART of stone from your flesh and
I will give to you a HEART of flesh (Yechezkel 36:26).
* The statutes of G-d are straight,
bringing happiness to the HEART (Psalms 19:9).
* May the words of my mouth and the
meditations of my HEART be desirable before You, L-rd, my Rock and my Redeemer (Psalms
* May He give to you according to your
HEART (Psalms 20:5).
* Who will go up to the Mount of G-d and
who will rise to His holy place? The one of clean hands and pure HEART (Psalms 24:3-4).
* Sing with joy, all who have an upright
HEART (Psalms 32:11).
* In Him our HEART will rejoice (Psalm
* G-d is close to the one with a broken
HEART (Psalms 34:19).
* I groan from the moaning of my HEART
* He speaks falsely, his HEART gathers
iniquity to itself (Psalm 41:7).
* Create in me a pure HEART, G-d, and renew
a correct spirit within me (Psalms 51:12).
* I sent them in the stubbornness of their
HEART that they would follow their own advice (Psalms 81:13).
* Unify my HEART to fear Your name (Psalms
* I will thank You L-rd my G-d with all my
HEART (Psalms 86:12).
* Teach us to number our days and this will
bring wisdom of the HEART (Psalms 90:12).
* And happiness goes to the straight of
HEART (Psalms 97:11).
* My HEART is not arrogant (Psalms 131:1).
* He heals the one whose HEART is broken
* Never abandon lovingkindness and truth,
tie them onto your neck and inscribe them onto the tablet of your HEART (Proverbs 3:3).
* Trust in G-d with all your HEART and do
not rely on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).
* Of all things that you might guard, guard
most your HEART for out of it comes all issues of life (Proverbs 4:23).
* The HEART knows its own bitterness
* The happy HEART makes a face pleasant,
and one's spirit is crushed with a depressed HEART (Proverbs 15:13).
* The understanding HEART pursues knowledge
* Life is a feast for all who have a happy
HEART (Proverbs 15:15).
* Every arrogant HEART is disgusting to G-d
* A happy HEART is good medicine (Proverbs
* A man's HEART is arrogant before a
downfall and humility is before honor (Proverbs 18:12).
* Many are the thoughts in a man's HEART
but the plan of G-d will endure (Proverbs 19:21).
* Just as water reflects a face, so the
HEART of a person replies to a HEART (Proverbs 27:19).
* Her husband's HEART trusts her (Proverbs
* In the day of his wedding and the day of
the happiness of his HEART (Song Of Songs 3:11).
* "...You have comforted me and you
have spoken to my heart..." (Ruth 2:13).
* I said in my HEART...(Ecclesiastes 2:1).
* I conducted my HEART with wisdom
* Remove anger from your HEART and put away
evil from your flesh (Ecclesiastes 11:10).
* You are the L-rd G-d Who chose Avram and
took him out of Ur Kasdim and changed his name to Avraham, and You found his HEART
faithful (Nehemia 9:7-8).
* The HEART of those who seek the L-rd will
be happy (1 Chronicles 16:10).
* L-rd G-d of Avraham, Yitzchok and Israel
our fathers, guard this forever in the inclination of the thoughts in the HEART of Your
people and direct their HEARTS to You (1 Chronicles 29:18).
* Put into our HEART the understanding and
intelligence to learn and to teach, to guard and do and fulfil all the words of the
teaching of Your Torah with love; and enlighten our eyes with Your Torah and make our
HEART attach to Your commandments and unify our HEART to love and fear Your name that we
forever not be shamed (Siddur, Ahava Rabo [Nusach Ashkenaz]/Ahavas Olam [Nusach S'fard]).
* May He open our HEART to His Torah and
put into our HEART love and fear of Him, and to do His will and to serve Him with full
HEART that we never come to futility nor ever bring ourselves to dismay (Siddur, Uva
* And purify our HEART to serve You
truthfully (Siddur, shabos and yom tov Shmoneh Esray).
* Whether rich or poor, each has the same
merit as long as he gives with his HEART directed to Heaven (Brachos 5b).
* "And you will love the L-rd your G-d
with all your HEARTS" (Deuteronomy 6:5). What is HEARTS [i.e. plural]? With the two
inclinations of the HEART. Love Him with your good inclination as well as your evil
inclination [i.e. channel even your evil energies for mitzvos e.g. if you are
bloodthirsty, instead of being a murderer, be a mohel - circumcise babies - or be a
butcher - feed your neighborhood] (Brachos 54a).
* Any pain except the pain of the HEART
* My son, you made my HEART happy (Sota
* A thing which is known only to the HEART
[i.e. you may want to escape an obligation. You may think you can evade it, keep quiet,
close your eyes or pretend you don't know that you have the obligation. G-d knows your
obligation. Don't think that just because it is ONLY in your HEART that your obligation is
evaded]. (Kidushin 32b).
* One must never speak one thing with the
mouth and intend another thing in the HEART (Bava Metzia 49a).
* G-d wants the HEART (Sanhedrin 106b).
* A good HEART contains all good things and
a bad HEART contains all bad things (Pirkei Avos chapter 2). This is because the heart
controls all of the other powers and it is the source from which all actions are derived,
in spite of the fact that each action is done with its particular limb. The force which
arouses each action is the HEART and therefore it is the element which determines good and
bad in life (Bartenura on this mishna).
* A person is guilty of sinning against his
soul if he intentionally turns Torah out of his HEART (Pirkei Avos chapter 3).
* The Torah is acquired with 48 things and
these are they...understanding of the HEART, thinking of the HEART...a good HEART...does
not get arrogant of HEART over his learning...reflects in his HEART what he learns (Pirkei
Avos chapter 6).
* What was the beginning of Rabbi Akiva
[becoming a sage]? It was said that at the age of forty he had not learned anything. On
one occasion he was standing at the mouth of a wellspring. He asked, "Who carved this
stone?" [The people there] answered him, "The water which continuously falls on
it every day." They said, "Akiva, have you not read [the verse, Job 14:19], 'The
waters carved the stones'?" Immediately, Rabbi Akiva applied minor-to- major-logic
[kal vichomer] to himself: "Whereas something soft [water] can engrave something hard
[stone], how much moreso will words of Torah, which are as heard as iron, will carve into
my HEART, which is flesh and blood." Immediately, he went to learn Torah (Avos DeRebi
* Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai asked the sages,
"What is the proper way to live? Rabbi Elazar entered and said, "A good HEART to
Heaven and a good HEART to people" (Avos DeRebi Noson 14).
* All parts of a person are controlled by
the HEART (Yerushalmi T'rumos, chapter 8).
* The evil are controlled by their HEART
and the HEART of the righteous is in their control (Beraishis Raba).
* Just as the hurting HEART feels hurt
first, the happy HEART feels a person's happiness first; and in the future the Holy One
Blessed Be He will comfort first the HEART (Shmos Raba).
* Bringing a burnt sacrifice offering never
comes except due to sinful thought in the HEART (Vayikra Raba).
* The right side of the HEART is for wisdom
and good and the left side of the HEART is for foolishness and evil (Bamidbar Raba).
* The HEART sees, hears, speaks, walks,
falls, stands, rejoices, cries, is comforted, is pained, is hard, is faint, is frightened,
is broken, is haughty, is rebellious, fabricates, is arbitrary, wishes, devises, lusts,
deviates, indulges, is refreshed, is outwitted, is humble, is enticed, wanders
erroneously, is terrified, awakens, loves, hates, is jealous, is investigated, is torn,
meditates, the HEART is like fire, the HEART is like stone (Kohelless Raba).
* The HEART (of Aaron) which was happy at
the appointment of his brother (Moshe) to leadership will come and be happy at being
dressed in the urim vitumim (Midrash Tanchuma).
* [At Mount Sinai the Jewish people were
united] as one person with one HEART (Midrash Mechilta).
* "Do not hurt your fellow Jew and you
shall fear your G-d [Leviticus 25:17]." Here the Torah warns about hurting with
words, that one not annoy or pain another nor give advice which is not suitable or
beneficial; and if you will ask who will know your bad intent, the Torah says here,
"And you shall fear your G-d," Who knows every thought that is in the HEART
* [The two righteous clowns who made people
happy] made happy the HEART by turning away the sadness from the HEART of sad people who
they gladdened, and by turning away the pain in the HEART of quarreling friends or husband
and wife for whom the clowns made peace (Rabainu Chananel [to Taanis 22a]).
* The wisdom of the Torah is divided into
two parts...the external [i.e. civil law]...and the internal [i.e. "religious"
law, which requires] knowing the obligations of the HEART...intellect would dictate
external wisdom but internal obligations are determined by Torah revelation [Chovos
* Joy comes because of plentiful calm in
the HEART with no bad feeling of wound (Orchos Tzadikim).
* The evil inclination becomes very
habituated into the HEART (Orchos Tzadikim).
* There are some character traits which a
person can learn from others or he is inclined to them on his own according to independent
thought which came upon his HEART...or he may hear that a certain trait is good and he
trains himself to assimilate it into his HEART...To train oneself to break a bad character
trait, he must act according to the extreme opposite trait for a long time, until he
uproots the trait from his HEART (Rambam, Hilchos Dayos).
* Words which come out of the HEART enter
into the HEART (Alshich [to Deuteronomy 6:6]).
* The beginnings and foundations of true,
desirable and beautiful saintliness are implanted in every honest person's HEART (Mesilas
* Torah does not get fixed into a person's
HEART except when he is calm and he has peace of mind. (Vilna Gaon).
* All 613 mitzvos depend upon the
HEART...and one must humble one's HEART with great subjugation...and one must put into his
HEART to guard, to do and to fulfill every good thing and to guard against every bad thing
* To feel joy at every opportunity to do
good for another person is to have a good HEART (Tiferes Yisroel).
There are countless more examples which
could be found.