With Our Hearts and Minds

The relationship between our minds and our hearts is both vital and complex.

As Torah Jews, we are cognizant of the fact that no matter how much we may find ourselves yearning to go in a certain direction, our hearts must be subjugated to the instruction of our minds. Although emotions play a very important role in our avodas Hashem when channeled properly, ultimately, logic must triumph over feelings. Otherwise, as the Torah warns us, we will be quickly led astray.

At the same time, while our hearts must accept the leadership of our minds, it is crucial that we use the gift of intellect appropriately. For if the mind will draw the wrong conclusions and send the wrong instructions, the subjugation of our hearts will have been for naught, because the resultant actions will be the wrong ones.

When we recite Krias Shema, we seek to achieve these two vital goals. As we say the passuk of Shema Yisrael, we dedicate our minds to be mekabel ol malchus Shamayim, and commit to using our intellect solely to further retzon Hashem.

When we recite the passuk of Vahavta es Hashem Elokechah, we dedicate our hearts and emotions to avodas Hashem, and commit to ensuring that our hearts will follow the pure intentions of our intellect.

Chazal (Pesachim 55b) relate that there were three practices of the residents of Yericho that the Chachamim protested to them about, and three practices that the Chachamim chose not to protest to them about.

Among the latter was the way the Jews of Yericho would recite Krias Shema. According to one Amora, they didn’t recite “Baruch shem kevod malchuso.” According to another Amora, they recited “Ve’ahavta” immediately after “Shema Yisrael,” without pausing in between.

Why indeed did the people of Yericho not pause between these pesukim? If they should have done so, why didn’t the Chachamim protest?

One approach is that the residents of Yericho wished to illustrate that, in essence, these two concepts are inseparable, for it is impossible to serve Hashem without subjugating both the mind and the heart.

The Chachamim, on the other hand, felt that one should pause briefly to reflect. For while both are absolute necessities, they are independent of each other. For, as mentioned, it is possible for someone to fully dedicate the mind, but still allow the heart to follow its own desires, leading to spiritual catastrophe. In the same vein, one can purify his heart and commit to fully following his intellect, but if the mind hasn’t been fully dedicated to serve Hashem, the heart will be getting very incorrect instructions.

Since, however, the people of Yericho were essentially in agreement with the Chachamim — but chose to focus on a slightly different angle — they chose not to protest.

This week the Torah instructs Bnei Yisrael, “It shall be that when you draw near to the war, the Kohen shall approach and he shall speak to the people. And he shall say to them, Shema Yisrael …” (Devarim 20:2-3)

“Even if there is no merit in you but the recitation of Shema alone, you are worthy that He should save you,” Rashi explains.

The power of our enemies lies in the ability to separate the heart and the mind, and to influence the heart to pursue its base desires without the constraint of an intellect that dictates the Will of Hashem.

Therefore, the recital of Krias Shema, and the dedication of both the mind and the heart to avodas Hashem is a remarkable segulah for defeating our enemies. (Based upon a teaching of the Shem MiShmuel)

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The Torah also teaches this week the concept of temimus:

“You shall be wholehearted with Hashem” (Devarim 18:13).

“Walk with Him with wholeheartedness. Trust in what He has in store for you, and do not delve into the future. But rather, whatever comes upon you accept with temimus, and then you will be with Him, and of His portion,” Rashi teaches us.

Part of this mitzvah also includes using our intellect to fill our hearts with bitachon and to overcome our natural inclination to worry about the future. Instead of feeling anxious or even panicky about what tomorrow may bring — even when we seem to have legitimate reason to feel that way — our goal must be to approach life with temimus. For the Ribbono shel Olam is with us in every tzarah, and even when there seems to be no way out of the darkness, the Ribbono shel Olam, Whose power and compassion are infinite, can bring salvation in the most unlikely of ways.

Even when our hearts are filled with despair, let us use our intellect to strengthen ourselves with bitachon.