I don’t know about you, but I can look backwards at a depressingly long list of mistakes. These were bad decisions. I think of them as forks in the road where I took the wrong turn.
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.
I’ve known people who’ve purchased bad time share deals though they were warned against them by a wise advisor. Their hearts were seduced by the view and their heads went along for the ride.
I’ve known men and women who have made terrible marriage decisions both in whom they married and in how they went about setting up the relationship’s ground rules. In each case they ‘fell in love’ and their heads were only belatedly involved.
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 or woman whose emotions chiefly guide their decisions will frequently make bad choices.
Scripture doesn’t employ the common English usage of “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…?’
However, 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…’
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.
I must point out that, sadly, most English translations fail to make this vital distinction, 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:
Esau hated Jacob…and Esau said IN his heart… ‘I will kill Jacob my brother…’
Jeroboam said IN his heart, ‘Perhaps 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.
Hannah was speaking AT her heart…
(I Samuel 1:13)
David said TO his heart
(I Samuel 27:1)
Scripture is empowering us with a subtle but powerful message. We can allow our emotions to dominate us and then use our heads to rationalize bad decisions. Or we can carefully make decisions and then invite our hearts on board to provide needed excitement and enthusiasm.
There are so many messages like this one which only emerge from reading the Bible in the original Hebrew. Imagine how exciting it would be to look up all the above references and see this life lesson jump out at you. Or to find other examples on your own! So many of you have asked whether we might offer a Hebrew class and I am thrilled to finally be able to say: Yes! Two weeks ago we asked for feedback about holding a series of webinars and the response was overwhelming. Learn more about Holy Hebrew! http://www.rabbidaniellapin.com/holyhebrew.php and follow the links to sign up.