In a world where we try to be better at everything, where you can go to almost any media and find someone who will tell you how to be a better person, how to communicate better with others, how to be in better shape, how to…well, how to be better at just about anything.
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Of all the things we are trying to do to better ourselves, having both a healthy mind and a healthy heart is among the most desired conditions.
In Judaism, we believe that the heart and mind are actually one and the same thing.
The Hebrew word for heart is “leb” (לב), but although it is a separate organ from the mind, it is not separate spiritually.
In the prayer called the V’ahavta (You are to love) found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, we are told:
And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
Some versions of the Bible say with all thy heart and all thy mind, and in Judaic thought, these are one and the same. We are being told to love God with both our emotions and intellect.
In today’s world, you hear people advising others to make decisions with their mind and not their heart, because the gentile world sees the heart as emotion, and the mind as intellect.
In Jewish thought, the heart is the center of the intellect, directing us to make decisions based on our feelings as well as our sensibility.
In the Book of Proverbs, we read often of the mind and the heart as being the same thing. For instance:
The heart of the wise instructs his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips.” (Prov. 16:23)
That indicates that our heart is able to make wise decisions which enable us to better communicate our feelings and thoughts to others.
At the prelude to Proverbs, in Proverbs 2:10-11, the writer states that when Adonai gives wisdom, the wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be enjoyable to you.
The Chasidic Jews believe (at least, those of Chabad) that there is one mind, but two hearts. The outer heart is one that chases the worldly things, and the inner heart is the fire of the soul. The mind is the key to the inner heart, which is the more spiritually guided aspect of our personality.
If this sounds Freudian to you, it certainly does to me, too. The inner heart would be the Ego, the outer heart would be the Id, and the mind would be the Superego.
You know, Freud was Jewish- maybe what we now call modern psychoanalysis is really just what Jews have known about for centuries?
I believe we need to be led by our hearts and guided by our minds. The heart and mind need to work together, the heart allowing us to have an emotional connection to others, feeling compassion and empathy, with the mind reining us in from foolishly allowing others to take advantage of our kindness, or rushing into things that appeal to our desire for worldly things.
Mind and heart, heart and mind, both are necessary to gain spiritual understanding and wisdom. And if you ask me, I will agree with that Jewish tent maker from Tarsus when, in his first letter to the Kehillah in Corinth, he told them that he might have many gifts, but without love, he is nothing.
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That’s it for today, so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!