Feel Your Way to Failure

Our society is moving towards respecting feelings more than facts and placing emotions above the rule of law. That road to disaster is blatantly evident in the battle for civilization going on in Washington, D.C. right now.   It is clearly time for us all to relearn the following lesson from ancient Jewish wisdom.

Both individuals and societies can allow emotions to dominate us.  We then invariably  use our heads to rationalize the bad decisions we’ve just made. Alternatively, we can carefully make decisions and then invite our hearts on board to provide needed excitement and enthusiasm. The two ways we can choose to go lead to strikingly different places.

When I look backwards at a depressingly long list of mistakes and bad decisions, almost without exception, each one resulted when I rationalized something to which I already felt emotionally attracted.  I allowed my head to collaborate with my heart and once those two ganged up in cahoots, my fate was sealed.

Many people make bad investment decisions though they are warned against them by a wise advisor.  Their hearts are seduced by promises and their heads go along for the ride.

Many men and women make terrible marriage decisions, both in whom they marry and in how they set up the relationships. They ‘fall in love’ and their heads only belatedly get involved.

Communities and nations as well follow alluring images of utopia or conversely have their emotions roiled by angry exhortations. It is so much easier than studying history and facing reality. Invariably, years of suffering follow.

There is obviously a role for our hearts. Otherwise, God would hardly have implanted emotions inside us.  A person incapable of being powerfully stirred by emotion is not a complete person.  But a man, woman or nation whose emotions chiefly guide their decisions will frequently make bad choices.

Scripture doesn’t employ the common English usage, “Tom said to himself…”  Instead, we encounter phrases like the one in the following verse:

And if you say in your heart, ‘Why have these things happened to me…?’
(Jeremiah 13:22)

In the Lord’s language, there is meticulous specificity about prepositions.  Which is to say that in the Hebrew text some instances read, “_____said IN his or her heart” while others read, “_____said TO or AT his or her heart.”

What is the difference?

IN one’s heart means that your head has descended into your heart and your brain has surrendered to your feelings. 

TO one’s heart means that your head exerts control, addressing the heart from a strong and independent position.

Notably, the Torah hints at this vital tool for complete comprehension quite early in Genesis.

….And God said TO His heart, ‘I will no longer continue to curse the earth…’
(Genesis 8:21)

God is giving us a guideline to emulate.  We should choose to be like Him and those who follow His path.

With mind-boggling consistency, each time we read, “And _____ said IN his heart,” a Biblical figure is about to make a life-harming mistake. Each time we read, “And _____said TO his heart,” we see someone making a wise move.

Sadly, most English translations fail to make this vital distinction, often translating the Hebrew ‘EL’ meaning TO and also the Hebrew ‘B’ meaning IN, identically.

Here are two examples of men who had potential for greatness but headed in the wrong direction:

And Esau hated Jacob…and Esau said IN his heart… ‘I will kill Jacob my brother…’
(Genesis 27:41)

Jeroboam said IN his heart, ‘Now the monarchy will
return to the house of David.’
(I Kings 12:26)

Not surprisingly, Psalms 14:1 declares:

A depraved person says IN his heart, ‘There is no God.’

By contrast, enjoy these examples of people heading in the right direction.

And Hannah was speaking AT her heart…
(I Samuel 1:13)

And David said TO his heart
(I Samuel 27:1)

Scripture is empowering us with a subtle but powerful message. At all times our emotions should follow understanding, wisdom and discernment. When our hearts lead, we cleverly convince ourselves that we are acting correctly, even as we behave in ways that are foolish and damaging.

49 thoughts on “Feel Your Way to Failure”

  1. Rabbi Lapin,
    Years ago, I remembered a wealthy man mention he would consider buying a property only if it made logical and emotional sense. If everything looked perfect financially and his wife said it did not feel right, they would walk away. In those instances, he averted disaster, but didn’t go into specifics. The opposite was also true when the house felt right according to his wife, but logically it was not wise to make the purchase. Is it possible that a man cannot trust his emotions just as a woman cannot trust her logic? However, when they combine their orthogonal perspectives, they become the perfect team?

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Adrian–
      I do think that, as you write, once they’ve been married for a few years, a couple can become the perfect team. Virtually always, everything we publish here at Lifecodex Publishing and at the American Alliance of Jews and Christians has undergone scrutiny from both Susan Lapin and me. Now regarding the story you cite, we don’t know whether that wealthy man followed his policy because he considered it an effective real estate or whether he considered it an investment in his marriage. In other words, perhaps he felt that losing an occasional property purchase because his wife didn’t like the way it felt was a worthwhile price to pay. Now if the purchase was not for investment purposes but as a home in which to live, then needless to say, a man would surely be a fool to acquire such a home without his wife’s enthusiastic agreement. In any event, the ways of successful marriages are beautifully mysterious.

  2. Thank you for affirming this principle. I have been told that emotions contribute nothing to intelligent thought and should be suppressed or ignored at all cost. When you said, “There is obviously a role for our hearts. Otherwise God would not have implanted emotions inside us.”, I rejoiced at the acknowledgement that emotions are God-given but I rejoice even more with the thorough teaching you offered that the head should always be the one to control these emotions and the decisions we make. Thank you as always.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks for writing, Feeling Happy,
      Those were exactly the lessons I intended this Thought Tool to teach. Of course we are meant to develop all parts of our beings. We must take care of our physical bodies, we must grow our intellectual abilities, we must nourish our emotional abilities. Some people focus exclusively on head, becoming emotional cripples incapable of loving relationships. Very sad.

  3. Dear Rabbi,
    Thank you so much for this. I am one Christian gal who gets so much from your articles.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      You can’t imagine how much it means to Susan and me to hear that we are being useful in your life, Joanne,
      Thanks for writing

  4. Thanks again for reminding me of that which I should have known. At 78 you would have though of that. Of course my much wiser wife reminded me of the many faith based organizations that we do contribute to. Well. As the old Dutchman said ” Ve get to soon olt, unh to late Schmart”.
    Everybody needs a Rabbi.
    Thanks again, BT

  5. Joan Marie Gloss Snyder

    Dear Rabbi, When I watch your show or read yours or Susan’s postings, I glean another gem from your interpretations. I am a born again believer since 25 years old, now 72 and never cease to realize just how much there is yet to learn. I was so blessed to visit a Messianic Synagogue and sense a wonderful uplifting when the Torah was brought out and read in Hebrew. While I am a serving Baptist, I want more of Ancient Jewish Wisdom now then ever. My grandma, who is passed, but a beautiful Jewish example of the love of the Word in my life, must have had so much influence on our large family of 11 children as she stayed with us in her later years. Although just a short life span with me, I was 5 when she passed, I can never forget her. Our family is blessed with beautiful children and grandchildren and great grandchildren as we found faith through maternal love.
    I am now studying how to be strong in the faith and to stand firm for righteousness and just cannot thank you enough for the Hebrew interpretation of the Word. I often wondered about my own non Jewish mother reading from the back to the front of a book but who was in close bonds with my Grandmother. Did she share something special with my mother? I laughed at the thought.
    Please continue to bring the light to us, Rabbi.
    I am not a citizen of Israel but I feel some bond that has brought so much love into my heart for her. If I could, I would be in line for transport but I am placed where I am to serve as best I can.
    You are bringing blessings to all who have a heart to read and listen to wisdom. Blessings be yours!
    In Yeshua Messiah! Joanie

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Joan Marie
      Thanks for such a full and heartfelt letter. It sounds as if you believe that your maternal grandmother was Jewish? (Or maybe it was your father’s mother.) I imagine there must be quite a story from her earlier days.
      Thank you for your blessings,

      1. Joan Marie Gloss Snyder

        Anna, my grand mother was my father’s mother. My mother embraced her with love and we cherished her beautiful spirit. My mother was half Native American. What a mix I am!

  6. Oh how timely this bit of wisdom is published!
    Being involved in two separate family businesses which are decades old, and wrestling with some decisions of finality, scaling back or growing each, our emotions do tend to try taking the spotlight.
    A few weeks, some objective thinking and plenty of prayer should help ease decision making, along with this wonderful analysis of Ancient Jewish Wisdom.
    Thank You, once again, Rabbi.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Nothing pleases us more, Darin, than knowing that the ancient Jewish wisdom we teach is helping you in finance, faith, friendship, or family. In your case, sounds like it might be in both finance and family. May you all make wise and correct decisions.

  7. I believe you’ve written about the heart vs head conflict before, but your words come at a good time for me (and many others!). Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom and for listening to God’s promptings.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Yes, Susan,
      the heart/head dichotomy lies at the foundation of so much today, including American politics. Understanding it is most useful in handling ourselves!

  8. Rabbi,
    In regards to English translations, what version would you recommend that gets the Hebrew translation most correct?

    If you put together a course teaching Hebrew I would be interested and I would think others would be as well.

    I just started working through the library plus package. Thank you for sharing the fruits of your labor. May God bless you and your family.


    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you Chad–
      I like using the Koren Jerusalem Bible, not because its translation is accurate but because it is no worse than others, perhaps a little better. More importantly, the Hebrew page shows the accurate graphic layout. It is also reasonably compact. The translation problem is that every word, nay every letter in the Hebrew Scripture carries a message. Echoing as it does the very world around us. Shakespeare captured this in As You Like It–“Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in everything.” So to be even marginally accurate, a translation would require a paragraph to translate each word, or at the very least each sentence. Logistically, it just doesn’t work. Hope that makes sense. We appreciate your blessing so much.

  9. Daniel

    By happenstance today, I have been pondering the events of the past couple of weeks amid the rancor, distrust, attacks (from confrontations to envelopes with ricin) and shouting hatred on social media. I love today’s Thought Tools in using it for perspective in that regard. I have also turned to the words of William Faulkner’s 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature Speech wherein he was talking about the world’s fear of nuclear war and the effect on writers. It is appropriate today for, as Faulkner said, “the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself.”

    “Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.
    He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.
    Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.
    I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”

    Best to you and Susan

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Very beautiful and inspiring words, dear Don,
      and very helpful to Susan and me as well as to our readers, I feel.
      Not the easiest of times…
      With blessings,
      Daniel Lapin

  10. This reminds me of your teaching on MeLeCH vs Ka-LeM in Buried Treasure. Growing up in the ‘60s we were bombarded with the “trust your heart” philosophy while our parents’ and grandparents’ advice to us was to trust your head and your heart WILL follow. Since I was a teenager, and knew everything, I followed my heart… and, boom! Calamity followed. By my mid 20s I realized that the wisdom my parents and grandparents were trying to teach me was not some boring “older generation”, upper middle class dogma but actually came from the One they loved and served, God himself. Anybody who understands and applies this teaching will find themselves “kings” of their future rather than “shameful” slaves of their past.
    Thank you for your courage to teach truth!

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      So good to hear your description of how the world REALLY works, dear Lisa–
      How does one help a younger person in one’s life avoid the sad and often tragic mistakes that result from ignoring wisdom until it is almost too late?

  11. I really appreciate and I think I understand it. But there is within me a conflict. I really dispize the fact that my tax and s/s money is being used to support people who are here illegally. But then again who can look upon someone, young or old, and say they shouldn’t receive care? How would you suggest I resolve this conflict of head vs heart?
    Your faithfull freind,

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Brian-
      Resolving your conflict is easy. Advocate against the government confiscating the hard earned money of diligent and industrious American families to underwrite and encourage illegal immigration. Simultaneously, locate and contribute to a ministry group that aids and assists people in need regardless of origin.

  12. Thank you for being “My” Rabbi. Once again you enlighten me with the intricacies of the “Lord’s Language”. Illustrations abound concerning decision making with your head and not your heart. But reviewing these revelations throughout the God’s word is inspiring and rewarding. I look forward to recognizing the examples as I continue my biblical studies and applying the wisdom gained.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks for writing Brent,
      Happy our work is enlightening your heart.

  13. Your message of head vs. heart is an apt one, when America seems falling into a caustic bath of mindless hatred. The pop culture certainly bears partial responsibility. One presumes to attack the pop culture only with a certain trepidation, still I am compelled to pillory a quote that most everyone knows and loves, about The Force: ‘Trust your feelings, Luke.’ This quote has survived to become enshrined as a generational icon. But I call this out as disastrous. For the word ‘feeling,’ however well-meaning, is a two-edged sword, because ‘feeling’ can have two meanings: one meaning (a sensed impression, deriving from instinctual sources) points perhaps to the head, yet the other (an outpouring of biological emotion) points directly to the heart. And both meanings point rather to the body than to the mind. So if our feelings are to guide us, which way do we go? I fear that this sci-fi series has inspired more pop culture ‘religious guidance’ than we can ever know, with a truism that has alarming potential to lead us astray.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear James,
      Pop culture has undoubtedly done a great deal to shape the attitudes of the impressionable. Though he was said to have refuted it in later life, John Lennon’s song, Imagine, had a severely deleterious impact on several generations of thoughtless people.

  14. This is excellent! Thank you Rabbi! You are my Rabbi! I am learning so much from your teachings! Thank you. I look forward to sharing this with my daughter who is 12. We are born again Christians and your teachings are deepening our understandings of God and the Word!

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Stephanie–
      I am eager to hear how your young daughter relates to this Thought Tool. In any event, I do know that not just giving it to her to read but reading it together and discussing it will do wonders for what I am sure is an already good mother-daughter bond.

  15. Which books would I be best to buy first? I know by listening to the podcast that the learning the Hebrew language ( is that ever possible late in life? ) is the first you might suggest. Thank you, that you and Susan are sharing your knowledge with us all. I can tell that many more are like myself ,grateful by reading the comments.

    1. Debbie, this is like asking us who is our favorite child! If you are interested in books rather than audio or video, it depends if you are looking for economic guidance through ancient Jewish wisdom, in which case either Thou Shall Prosper or Business Secrets from the Bible are your books, or if you want more general insights, the three books in the Thought Tool Set should be first. Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language is similar to Thought Tools but everything flows from the Hebrew language while Thought Tools is based more in Scripture. As a very non-objective observer, I’d say you can’t go wrong with any choice.

  16. Rabbi, I used to try to follow this advice religiously, although as I did not draw it from religion, but it may well have originated there. Basically, I would say, your head is intellect, and your heart is emotion. Happiness is when your head and your heart are pulling in the same direction, but when they are not; follow your head. But I now give new advice. Your heart can be untruthful and dangerous at any time, but you can also rationalize with, and convince, your head to go along with your heart. Instead, follow your gut. Your gut feeling is the sum total of all your knowledge and experiences, conscious and unconscious, remembered and not remembered, and you have no way of influencing it. And your gut never lies.
    Salutations from an ex-Muizenberg boy.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Farrell–
      With tears of nostalgia running down my face–I can actually close my eyes and still smell the unique fragrance of Muizenberg sand and surf–I thank you for your thoughtful analysis. My only caution is that many people confuse gut with emotion. Many who claim to follow their gut are really doing exactly what they want to do; what they feel like doing; what their hearts tug them towards doing. But other than that caveat, I think your approach can work.

      1. I use to say my gut is never wrong and if I were to go against it, every time without exception I have been wrong. I’ve concluded my gut is The Holy Spirit. Just a thought to share.

        1. I always wondered where the Holy Spirit resides exactly when He moves in ! Must be He lives in our gut area !!!!

          1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

            Now look what you’ve done, Debbie-
            You’ve even got Karen trusting her gut.

        2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

          Careful Debbie–
          Always be sure that you are not interpreting your gut as whatever you deeply want to do. Make your actions pass the ‘head-test’ before you commit.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks for letting us know, Ali,
      It means more to us than you can imagine to know that we are helping you.

  17. Rabbi, you’ve touched at the core of the mistakes I’ve been making in my life. There’s no day like today to begin again. Thank you so much.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Go for it, JHTH!
      With gusto! A complete makeover is called for.
      Let us know how it goes.

  18. Rabbi Lapin, I really needed this. Thank you for posting. It is so easy to slip in a emotional state of mind when life happens. Now I can pray, remember to look at the facts and make more positive life changing decisions.
    Thank you!
    I’m so glad you obeyed God and wrote Business Secrets of the Bible. It’s a great tool as well to help me live a better life.
    Thank you

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you Yvonne–
      So good to hear that this helped you. May I recommend you visit it again a few times? It can take several doses, sometimes, to move the message from the head to the heart and action often flows from the heart.

  19. Woowweee, eye-opening insight, indeed! I am so over the “saying IN my heart” process and totally want to wisely be in the “saying To my heart” mode for the rest of my life!
    I am so grateful for you, Rabbi Lapin as I have recently come across your videos and podcasts on YouTube. I greatly value you and your wife’s work. I endeavor to pass these things on to my children. I wish I knew of you for my whole life.
    Blessings to you and your family.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you Lani–
      Interestingly the most frequently occuring comment we get is something along the lines of “Where were you when I was younger/raising my kids/getting married etc etc” Still, today is not too late to change. Welcome to the rest of your life!

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