Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Va'eschanan, Devorim 4:39. Ve'yadata hayom Ve'hasheivosa el Levavecha: The Mind and the Heart.

This pasuk tells us that we should know- ve'yadata- that Hashem is the One and Only Master of the Universe. Then, the pasuk tells us, 've'hasheivosa el levavecha,' set it firmly into your heart. Clearly, the second step goes beyond the first, and one might know Hashem's kingship and still not achieve what this pasuk requires of him. What is the difference between 'knowing' and 'setting firmly into the heart'?

In fact, though, there is a very important qualitative difference between the two points of knowledge. Reb Yitzchok Blazer, a student of Reb Yisroel Salanter, once said that the distance between Ve'yadata and V’hasheivosa is far greater that the distance between Lo Yadata and Yadata. From Lo Yadata to Yadata, from 'not knowing' to 'knowing' is a relatively small step. From Yadata to Ve'hasheivosa, from 'knowing' to 'knowledge of the heart' is an Odyssey.

Just knowing something is not at all the same as a full emotional understanding. We have all experienced the difference: This is like when a person tells his best friend, or a father tells a son, close your eyes, lean back, and fall into my arms. Even if you absolutely trust the person behind you, it will be very hard to actually fall and depend on the person to catch you. Only after a few false starts can you convince your body to let go and fall into the other’s arms. It’s not enough that you know— your body has to be convinced.

Reb Eliyahu Dessler (Michtav Mei’Eliahu Vol. 5, on the avoda of Rosh Hashanna.) stresses this difference, which he categorizes as the difference between rational awareness and ‘dveikus’. He says that this journey is the avoda of Rosh Hashanna: if you properly say Malchios, Zichronos, and Shofros, you will come to devykus, which will make teshuva a foregone conclusion. If the dveykus does not lead to remorse and full teshuva for past sins, then your enthusiasm and kavana is just an ephemeral experience, a caprice, a delusion.

This applies just as well to negative or destructive beliefs or behaviors. In the Haftorah of Devorim the Navi talks about sins that are Kashanim and sins that are Katola. Both shanim and tola refer to red-dyed wool Despite their similar appearance to an observer, there is an very important difference between them. R’ Meir Simcha says that Shanim is wool that is only dyed on the surface, so teshuva can result in brilliant white like snow, whereas Tola is red through and through, and teshuva can only result in the less pristine white of Tzemer. This illustrates the difference between an act or behavior that is superficial and one that saturates the personality.

The Darash Moshe and the Ramban observe that the Meraglim in Shemos Shlach 13:3, were listed lefi gedulosom, in the order of their spiritual achievements. But strangely, we find that Yehoshua and Kaleiv are in middle of the pack. Despite the apparent superior tzidkus of the others over Yehoshua and Kalev, what mattered in the end, when faced with nisayon, was the depth of conviction, the emotional saturation, the dveikus— the hasheivoso el levavecha.

What really is the difference between yedi’ah of the mind and yedi’ah of the heart? One example: a woman may know absolutely that married women cannot go outdoors with her hair uncovered. But she might sit in mixed company and talk about private matters that concern only her and her husband. Or, strangely enough (and I’m not making this up), swim at a mixed pool– with a snood to preserve her standards of modesty. People who never miss davenning in shul can let years go by without one Shmoneh Esrei in which they pour their hearts out to Hashem. What the heck are they doing there? The only possible explanation is that simply knowing something means that you know the thing and nothing more. Knowing it in your heart means that you understand and feel the underlying concept and you have made it a part of your emotional and intellectual essence. When a person has reached that level, then everything he does will subconsciously be checked for consistency with his essential belief.

A friend of mine has a talent often associated with "savants." He can tell you immediately what day of the week any date, past or future, will fall on. He doesn’t hesitate for a moment– he knows immediately. There is a certain complex formula that anyone can laboriously work out that will yield the same result. I am told that if a person works through the formula hundreds, or maybe thousands, of times, he eventually develops the intuitive, subconscious skill to know the answer without any apparent thought at all, just as my friend does. That is the difference between ve’yadata and ve’hasheivosa ehl le’vovecha.

And how can you tell who is a tzadik misafa v’lachutz and who is a tzadik in his pnimiyus? You can’t. Not only can’t you tell in other people, you can’t even tell in yourself. It’s like courage— you never know what you are until you are tested, as is well illustrated in Stephan Crane's The Red Badge of Courage. Not only can’t you tell, it is almost unknowable; the Torah (and Sefer Iyov) is full of stories of people who were tested, after which Hashem says “Atta yadati” that you are a real ba’al bitochon. Appearances mean little. Only after being put to the test can one know who he is.

When we put on our tefillin, let us remember this important idea, perfectly symbolized by the Shel Rosh on our head, the straps of the shel rosh that go down to our heart, the Shel Yad next to the heart, with the straps that go down to our hands: it is not enough to 'know'. Torah has has to go from your Head to your Heart to your Hands.


  1. Somehow I am not surprised that one can be a loyal adherant of "tfila b'tzibur" and never achieve v'yadata.
    Simply waiting for the shliach tzibur to conclude each "perek",the endless "kadeishim", the repetition of Shmona Esrei, the selection of baalei tfila who cripple the nusach and the dikduk, faking "tachnun" one can say it that fast!! I'll take davening b'yechidus every time for continuity, mood and even a little d'veikus.

  2. Maybe you're right, that there's an inherent incompatibility between dveikus and the rigid rules and public forum of tefillah betzibbur. But most of need the anchor of duty to keep us from being swept away by the distractions of life.

  3. As long as it starts in the head first and becomes an emotion afterwards otherwise we may end up with an egel after matan torah.

  4. Here's what I mean: Couldn't make the minyan last week, began to daven at home and couldn't get beyond Adon Olam! I was stopped at the end of Adon Olam by the phrase, "V'im ruchi G'viyosi". I probably gave myself 4 or 5 minutes to digest the impact of this statment unimpeded by the need to keep up or gobble "korbonos" as does every minyan I know. A little introspection is infectious.

  5. You're right. What does ve'im ruchi gevi'osi mean?

    It seems to be a machlokes haposhtim, along with whether 'im' is spelled with an aleph or an ayin:

    Funny, though. My father sheyichyeh ahd biyas hamoshiach, a talmid of Slobodkeh in Europe, davens at home. I have to keep him from saying "le'olam" before Baruch She'omar, because he gets to "umosar ha'adam min habe'heima ayin" and he stops and argues with me for a half hour about how that doesn't make any sense, and that it is so wrong it shouldn't be in the siddur.

  6. David Guttmann-- thank you for the observation. That is an important point that needs to accompany this drasha. You can't just have a be-in. You have to start with deep and thorough rational understanding.