Subscribe to a Weekly Series

Posted on August 11, 2021 (5781) By Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein | Series: | Level:

The Torah asks us to love Hashem with all our heart, soul and might (1). As well, we are told to serve Him with all our heart and soul (2).

The Ibn Ezra explains (3) that the ‘heart’ is the seat of da’as — intelligence. (See Daniel 2:30: In his first address to the king, Daniel refers to the ‘thoughts’ of Nebuchadnetzar’s heart.)

This subject is actually a debate in medrashim (4): does intelligence stem from the heart or the head? Dovid Hamelech and Rebbe Eliezer understood that the source of intelligence is the head; but according to Shlomo Hamelech and Rebbe Yehoshua — the source of intelligence is the heart.

Ramban explains (5) that Shlomo Hamelech was able to bridge the gap between these views. Shlomo concluded that intelligence springs from the head — but spreads out via the heart. (See Devorim 4:39: “You will ‘know’ today, and instill it in your ‘heart’…”)

Perhaps there is no real debate in the end. Knowledge starts in the head, but “da’as” — a power which concentrates thought throughout the human being — is spread by the beating heart. (See the next paragraph)

To Speak With Da’as

In the last issue (parshas Devorim), we quoted the Me’or Einayim’s explanation of how the tzadikim nullify Hashem’s decrees through their intense concentration. The word the Me’or Einayim used was “da’as,” typically translated as “knowledge.” But the seforim say that “knowledge” is not the correct meaning of “da’as.” (6). Rather, “da’as” has to do with the activation and dedication of one’s thought. One who uses “da’as” is deeply involved — intensely engaged.

In Hashem’s reproof to Iyov, we find the expression: “B’milim bli da’as” (Iyov 38:2). Iyov is criticized — he spoke without “da’as.” It is as if to say, “Your words weren’t said with due thought and deliberation. Your words weren’t said by someone fully engaged!”

This is a criticism that applies to each of us. Often, words and actions which seem to be deliberate — are truly thoughtless. Publicly disgracing a person is all too common — even in the Bais Medrash. Even though such behavior may seem to be deliberate, one who ridicules people is not properly utilizing his brain — or his heart.

Mistakes Don’t Detract from Honor

Rav Yisrael Salanter wrote, “There are Jewish leaders whom we need to honor because of their great learning — who nonetheless transgress the monetary laws.” (7) The simple point is that the Jewish monetary laws are so challenging and complex that some of the leaders are not keeping them…

Yet, there is another remarkable point: In spite of the fact that Rav Yisrael condemns the behavior of these men, he stresses that we are nonetheless obligated to honor them — because of their Torah knowledge in other areas.

Years ago, I heard a drush: Why does the Torah go out of the way to mention and magnify the errors of the Avos and the tzadikim? It is to show us that the Avos and tzadikim made mistakes, but their mistakes don’t take away from their greatness one iota. Similarly, when we see relatives and friends err, this needn’t take away from the love and respect we have for them. (8)

I know that this is hard for many to accept, but it is extremely important. Even if you are certain that so-and-so has done something wrong, don’t allow this thought to cause you to belittle him.


This is how machlokus explodes: One person believes negative information about another, and now feels justified to scorn and ridicule that person publicly. The scorn and ridicule is a grave mistake! Is the information correct? The Torah says we are not to believe lashon horah — perhaps there is another side to the story?

Machlokus is not a Kiddush Hashem! The Chofetz Chaim, citing the Gemara, Smag and others, writes that to be machzik b’machlokus (to strengthen a controversy), is an aveira from the Torah (Sefer Chofetz Chaim, Pesicha, 12). Even if the words one speaks are true, he is nonetheless guilty of strengthening controversy (Be’er Mayim Chaim, Ibid.).

Secular politics are full of scandal and derision, but Torah is Kavod (honor and respect). When you are machzik b’machlokus — you break another beam of the Bais Hamikdosh…

Gratitude Versus Strife

We know that Moshe Rabbenu refused to strike the water (9) — because as an infant, he had been hidden in the water. He was not able to strike the earth (10) — because he had been able to bury the Egyptian he killed in the earth. When you have gratitude towards any object — you must not harm that entity. (See Bava Kama 92b.)

Therefore, when you owe thanks to someone, you must not be a judge for that person, even if he might be guilty. This is cited as halacha from the Rif, in the name of Ri Migash, by Rav Elchonon Wasserman (Rav Elchonon, p. 222).

Love, Not Discord

The Sifri says (11), “‘You shall love Hashem:’ Make Hashem beloved by mankind, as Avrohom Avinu did.” Let’s work to spread the love and appreciation of Hashem among mankind.

K’siva V’chasima Tova!

1. Devorim 6:5.
2. Devorim 11:13.
3. Devorim 6:5.
4. Yalkut Shimoni, beginning of Mishlei.
5. Beginning of Drasha L’chasuna.
6. Lekutei Amorim, chapter 42.
7. Ohr Yisrael.
8. Rav Avrohom Chaim Feuer, circa ’97.
9. Rashi, Shmos 7:19.
10. Rashi, Shmos 8:12.
11. Devorim, piska 32, quoted in Rambam, Sefer Hamitzvos, Asei 3.