Serve Hashem With Your Heart, Not Just Your Brain

Can something be true and false at the same time? Sounds crazy but a few weeks ago we read the famous passuk: “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof” which is usually translated as “Justice Justice shall you pursue”. The problem, however, is that the great Biblical commentator Onkelos translates the words “Tzedek Tzedek” as “Kushta Kushta” which is Aramaic for “Truth Truth”. Onkelos is therefore telling us to pursue, not  two kinds of justice, but two kinds of truth. Can there be such a thing? When something is true… is there anything else it can be? Truth is truth… so why mention it twice?

The great Chassidic master, the Slonimer Rebbe – in his sefer “Netivot Shalom” – answers this puzzling question. He says that for everything is life there are two kinds of truth; Truth of the mind and truth of the heart. The Rebbe says that truth of the mind is our intelligence. It is our wisdom and our knowledge. In other words, it is our brain. For that truth, things need to be black and white. We need evidence, proof and sometimes mathematical or scientific equations.

But the Rebbe says that there is another kind of truth. This is the truth of our emotions, our feelings and our soul. In other words, it is our heart. For this kind of truth, proofs and logic mean nothing. The heart needs to feel love and be connected through the emotional side of the truth. He says that many things in life can be true intellectually but if they are not true in one’s heart… they are false while being true!!!

Ever since learning these holy words I have not stopped thinking about them. I find it simply incredible that something could actually be true and false at the same time. True in the brain but false in the heart. It is an amazing concept but one that Onkelos warned us about thousands of years ago. “Truth, truth you shall purse” says the passuk – which means that a Jew’s goal in life is to pursue things that are true in both areas. Things need to be true intellectually but also emotionally as well. A complete Jew is one whose brain and heart work together.

Based on this, I started thinking about examples and came up with several but allow me to share just one with you in this article: In our modern day, must a Jew live in Israel? I have heard that question asked many times and have even attended several shiurim on this subject. This subject is so comprehensive that a sefer of 1,000 pages can easily be printed on this one issue alone. The problem, however, is that every one of those 1,000 pages will just deal with the intellectual side of this discussion. Not one word will deal with the heart or soul.

Compare that to the following: It is the wedding night of a young couple. Everything is in place for the beginning of a beautiful life together and the newlywed wife asks her chosson a simple question: “Why did you marry me?” The young chosson answers, “I married you because according to most Rabbinic opinions it is one of the 613 commandments. Furthermore, there are many mitzvot that one can only perform as a married man and I look forward to showing you what the Rambam says on these issues.” His answer is 100% intellectually true. It is accurate. It is logical but his new kallah will spend her first night in tears…

The answer she wanted to hear was: “I married you because I love you. My life was not complete until I met you and I simply cannot live without you.” That is his heart talking and living a life like that will insure both things: A complete, happy life plus all the mitzvot he wants to perform.

The same is true with the question of whether the Torah demands that a Jew live in Israel in our day and age. The answer is simple: A Jew needs to be in love with Israel. He needs to feel that his life is not complete while living outside the land. Intellectually, everything is fine in New York, for example. There are thousands of shiurim on all levels, glatt kosher food galore, beautiful shuls and mikvahs, mehadrin eruvs, fabulous “gemachs”, incredible Yeshivot, daf yomi on the Long Island Railroad, mincha minyans in 300 Manhattan locations,  shatnez testing all over town, Chol Hamoed trips and even separate hours in many health clubs! The problem with all this is as I wrote above; it is all true for the mind but not for the heart.

Listen to your heart and listen to your Jewish neshama. Trust me that they are telling you that there is more to serving Hashem than the way you are used to. Your Jewish heart is telling you that a Jew needs to live in Israel. That is where our home is, that is where our prayers are focused and that is what the entire Book of Devarim speaks about: The Land, the land, the land… Your heart and soul know it. The problem is that your brain gets in the way and convinces you that you can keep the mitzvot better in the USA.

This is exactly what the Slonimer Rebbe – who lived in Israel – referred to when he said that many things in life can be true intellectually but if they are not true in one’s heart… they are false while being true!!!

Therefore, as we start this new year, my suggestion to you is simple: Serve Hashem with your heart more and more each day. Connect to our King with your soul. Love our Master with your emotions and then bring that heart and soul – and the rest of your body – to His one and only land.