The Long Journey to the Heart
By Rabbi Label Lam
You shall know this day and take to your heart that HASHEM, He is G-d -
heaven above and on the earth below- there is none other. (Devarim 4:39)
There’s a story about a man in an insane asylum in the mid-west that
insisted on eating kosher food. When the hospital refused he demonstrated
his sincerity by going on a hunger strike. It became an administrative
nightmare but they were forced to capitulate. They had kosher food shipped
from hundreds of miles away each day for this one patient. One of the
Jewish doctors was making his rounds on Saturday morning and he saw this
same man smoking a big cigar. The doctor was aghast. He promptly rebuked
the patient, “You turn the whole hospital upside down for Kosher food and
here it is the holy Sabbath and you’re smoking a cigar?!” He took another
big puff and said, “Doc, don’t forget! I’m crazy!”
Similarly we often find it difficult to live up to what we know since we
tend to act on the warmth of feelings rather than cold information alone.
The ideal is when we are emotionally engaged with that which our sober
intellect has confirmed true. The question remains even after we are
convinced of a critical fact of life like the existence of G-d or the
truth of Torah, how does one excite the heart and make it really real?
It’s frighteningly possible to pass the written exam and fail in the
practicum of life. That’s crazy! What then is one to do?
A) Take a phrase and repeat it over and over again with more
emotion. Pictures, colorful and textured will begin to sprout from the
words over time as they become more densely packed with meaning.
B) Koneh lechah chaver- Acquire for your self a friend, says the
Pirke Avos. That’s nice too. The word K’neh can also mean a pen. Let your
pen be your friend. Sit with a blank page and ask a question on the top.
What lasts? Let it flow unedited. Make lists of 25 things. How can I be a
better husband/father/Jew? Let it flow. Edit later!
C) Take a media diet. Life unfolds like a soap opera. You can come
months later and find out you missed little. After a while you might begin
to think your own thoughts and hear your own heart beating separate from
the noise of the world.
D) Teach others. Nothing causes a person to know something more
than to be in a position of having to teach somebody else.
E) Do some quiet acts of goodness without the knowledge or approval
other persons. By so doing you will have opened a private “inner-world”
account and forged a deep personal relationship with HASHEM.
F) Learn Torah passionately and with a highlighter.
Reb Klonymous Kalman of Piasezcno writes, “There is a type of prophetic
revelation that comes when one looks into a holy book. Not knowledge of
the future, for that ceased when the Temple was destroyed. Rather, it is
guidance and a call to service of G-d and the holiness of Israel. At
times, we have all experienced looking into a holy book and suddenly
becoming extremely moved by a certain idea. A word pierces our heart and
gives us no rest for years, until it can transform us into a different
person and sanctify and uplift us. What is going on? We have already heard
this idea from others and seen it in books, yet we remained untouched. Yet
now, the matter suddenly penetrates our heart and mind. This is a form of
looking into the Breast Plate worn by the High Priest. There too, all the
letters were written, yet only some of them would shine into the eyes of
the Kohen; and only a Kohen with divine inspiration. Another Kohen could
stand beside him and not see a thing.”
Taking action on any or all, of this partial list of proven methods can
help launch one of life’s most exciting and yet all too neglected
adventures. From a pure intellect begins the long journey to the heart.
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.