Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Bechukotai
To dedicate this lesson

A Change of Heart


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

19 Iyar 5768
In this week’s haftara, Yirmiya contrasts between two gevarim (men). "Blessed is the man who relies on Hashem and Hashem is his source of trust" (Yirmiya 17:7). "Cursed is the man who relies on a man and makes flesh his forearm and from Hashem does his heart stray" (ibid.:5).
The difference between the two appears clear. One is the ultimate G-d-fearer, who believes and depends on Him. The other relies on human power and ignores Hashem. Certainly, meeting the two on the street, we would know who is who. Yet, a few p’sukim later, the navi stresses that Hashem is able to discern between the different people by investigating the heart and kidneys (ibid.:9-10). For commentators like the the Pesikta, who understand that the cursed person is an idolater or the like, what is special about Hashem that He can uncover his shortcomings? The Tanchuma claims that the blessed clings to the craft of his forefathers and prays to Hashem, whereas the cursed does not. Whether or not one prays honestly to Hashem is already something that only Hashem knows. However, it is unclear where this approach is hinted to in the p’sukim.
Let us move on to the Yerushalmi’s (Pe’ah 8:8) explanation. "Whoever needs tzedaka and does not accept it will not die of old-age before he will support others." The Yerushalmi cites our pasuk as support for this idea.
Many mitzvot depend on the intention in one’s heart. In these cases the Torah often concludes, "I am Hashem," meaning that He is the One who knows a person’s intention. People do not know how much money a person gives or receives. Ma’aser kesafim formulas are not a give-away as to how much one should give, as how much to subtract for necessary household expenses depends on the elusive estimation that only the family can determine. Whether or not one needs to receive charity depends on the standard of living a family needs, which again is a secret, private matter.
We can say that the two men Yirmiya contrasts are externally identical. Each is Torah-observant. They may attend the same shiurim. They differ in the intention of the heart. One tries to attain things naturally, but with proper "hishtadlus." He realizes there is "a Leader to the palace" and will not bypass halachic barriers. The second one compromises principles upon encountering difficulty. He relies on the strength of a man’s forearm, including his own. He thinks that his power will secure for him his desires. He forgets Who rules the world and centers his existence around his wishes.
These matters are indeed matters of the heart, hidden deep in a person’s psyche, from where it is very hard to access them. Therefore, the prophet stresses the heart three times in the pasuk. Let us pray that we will soon have fulfilled in us the pasuk, "A pure heart create within me, Hashem, and a correct spirit renew within me."
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