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08/13/2018 02:45:07 PM


Rabbi Barry Gelman

Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point notes that there is a  magical moment when an idea or social behavior crosses a threshold and spreads like wildfire.

I think there is a similar idea in Judaism that is helpful when thinking about the themes of the High Holidays.

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

׃And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon your heart;

These words declare the central claim of the Jewish faith. We teach these words to our children and they are on the lips of the pious as they take their last breaths.

Yet, these verses pose a problem.

Why does the pasuk say “on your heart” Don’t we mean “in your heart”? Don’t we want God’s word to be absorbed into our hearts.Why settle for the Torah resting on our heart instead of Torah being absorbed into our hearts.

Rabbi Shmuel Bornsztain offers a fascinating answer.

He notes that most of the time, people are not ready to absorb the richness of the Torah. Spirituality and inspiration are hard to come buy. That being the case, our gut reaction may be to give up. Yet, that is not the proper approach. Rabbi Bornztain says that the Torah is teaching that we must continue to engage in religious life, letting the Torah teachings sit “on our hearts” until the moment of inspiration comes. Eventually the moment will come when our heart will open and all of the torah will seep in and be “in our hearts…” What a vivid and powerful image!

At this time of year, when we are focused on religious and personal religious growth, this is a crucial idea to helps us not give up hope and continue to seek the moment when our heart opens.

As we continue the process of  personal and communal rebuilding, this message offers crucial hope. We like “turnkey” solutions, and when things to do flow as easily as we would like, we may get frustrated. The “on your heart” approach reminds us that we must keep plodding on in the hope and belief that the breakthrough will come and all of our hard work will be rewarded.

May this year be one of religious, personal and communal growth.

Fri, September 18 2020 29 Elul 5780