Man?s Main Work Is Rectifying the Heart
Acting Out of a Pure Heart
A person?s actions depend on the purity of his heart.
?A refining pot is for silver and a crucible for gold, and Hashem discerns hearts? (Mishlei 17:3). In this verse, King Shlomo is instructing a person to purify his thoughts and correct the traits of his heart. The heart is the key to all the limbs and organs of the body. They all follow the heart and are subservient to it. It is in the center of the body and rules over them, leads them, and bestows its strength on all of them. They are all its servants and subjects. The heart is like a king in the middle of his country, looking over all that surrounds him and commanding the people of the country what to do....
Since all of a person?s actions depend on the heart, King Shlomo instructs us concerning the traits of the heart. He tells us that all of the heart?s hidden thoughts are revealed to Hashem. He knows all thoughts and discerns among hearts which is a good heart and which is a wicked heart. Thus it is written, ?A refining pot is for silver and a crucible for gold, and Hashem discerns hearts.?
A smith refines silver in a refining pot. He refines gold in a crucible, a ceramic utensil used for refining gold. He sees whether the silver is full of dross or pure and the same with gold. So does Hashem discern among hearts, which of them are perfected and which are lacking.
From this we learn that the perfected heart and the good thought are compared to pure silver. The lacking heart and the bad thought are compared to impure silver. The good heart will produce good actions, just as choice silver will result in quality work. The wicked heart will produce bad actions, just as impure silver will not result in good work.
(Rabbeinu Bechaya, Introduction to Beshalach)
Our Goal Is to Rectify the Heart
All the mitzvos, both Torah commandments and rabbinical, are for rectifying the heart.
Now you should know and consider something about all the mitzvos, whether written in the Torah, handed down to us by tradition, or enacted by our forefathers. Though most of them require a deed or speech, all are really to rectify the heart, as it is written, ?For Hashem searches all hearts and understands all the inclinations of thoughts...? (Divrei HaYamim I 28:9). And it is written, ?Do good, Hashem, to good people, and to those who are straight in their hearts? (Tehillim 125:4). And the opposite: ?A heart plotting sinful thoughts...? (Mishlei 6:18). It is also written, ?Do not eat the bread of the miserly... 'Eat and drink,? he will tell you, but his heart is not with you? (ibid. 23:6?7). An evil eye comes from evil in the heart, as is known....
This is why the burnt offering is completely for Hashem ? it atones for improper thoughts of the spirit and the heart, whereas the sin offering and guilt offering, which atone for sins of speech and deed [are eaten only by the kohanim after the innards are offered on the Altar]. This is the meaning of ?And you shall circumcise the foreskin of your hearts? (Devarim 10:16).
(Ibn Ezra, Yesod Mora 7)
All the divine service for which the body?s limbs and organs are utilized, and all the mitzvos they have performed, are only in order to straighten out the heart. The heart is the focus, for it is the dwelling place of Hashem, as Chazal say: ?HaKadosh Baruch Hu is the heart of Israel, as it is written (Tehillim 73:26), 'The Rock of my heart? ? (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 5:2).
Thus, the goal is not the mitzvos in and of themselves. Rather, they are to bring a person to the goal. As the Zohar says, ?The Torah gave man 613 different ways and means to be fully with his Master? (Zohar, Yisro 82b). (Rav Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin, Tzidkas HaTzaddik 68)
The Heart Is the Beginning
Everything begins with ? and depends on ? its purity, which encompasses all 613 mitzvos.
The essence and starting point of everything is purity of heart. In truth, the hearts of Israel are holy, as it is written, ?Have we forgotten the name of our God or spread our hands to a strange god? Could not God search this out, for He knows the secrets of the heart? Because for Your sake we are killed all day...? (Tehillim 44:21?23). The hearts of Israel are clear and pure. Fortunate is their lot from the Holy King!
This truly is what is important. The heart provides life to the whole body and sustains it. Our heart beats, and blood and life force flows through our veins. This is why we must cleanse the heart of all negative traits ? hatred, jealousy, competitiveness, revenge, grudges, enmity, and lust for money, and certainly from lust for luxury, immodest behavior, and love of women, God forbid, and the pursuit of vanity. From this the heart must be empty, clean, and totally purified.
The heart is equal to the entire body, to the 248 limbs and organs and the 365 sinews and nerves, which correspond to the 613 mitzvos. The heart includes them all....
(Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz, Ya?aros Devash, Chodesh Elul 5; see Ibn Ezra; Yesod Mora, ch. 8)
|Author||Eliezer Yehuda Miller|