A Double Heart

A Double Heart

By Rabbi Jeffery Feinstein | Kehillat HaShem

Judaism begins with a quid pro quo. If you do this, you will get this. It continues to enumerate all the wonders given to us on the banks of the Jordan as we prepare to cross over into the promised land.

Rabbi Jeffery Feinstein
Rabbi Jeffery Feinstein

Moses tells us of the seven species — wheat, barley, grape, fig, pomegranate, olive oil and honey — that will be laid at our feet.

What wonders and bounty are presented to us, but what do we have to do? What is the quid pro quo?

The answer is given in Parsha V’etchanan. All G-d asks of us is to love Him.

Each of us is intimately familiar with Deuteronomy 6:5, the V’ahavtah. We are to love G-d with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our might.

In retrospect, we are certainly getting the better side of the deal.

The scales were and have always been tipped generously in our favor. Yet we have never been able to keep our side of the bargain.

There is a part of Parsha V’etchanan, specifically the V’ahavtah, that says to love G-d with all your heart.

Yet, true to the nature of Jewish text, there is a problem. Normally, the word for heart is lev, spelled lamed-bet. But in the Torah scroll, in this particular commandment, it is written lamed-bet-bet.

Grammatically, it is hard to explain. We could chalk it up to an early scribe’s carelessness, but that would be too easy. Besides, there are no mistakes in the Torah.

Of all the words, why does lev get a double portion of bet?

Our tradition indicates that every human has two inclinations: yetzer hatov (the good inclination) and yetzer hara (the bad inclination).

The former guides us to do mitzvot and help others. The latter drives our lust, malice and cravings.

As much as these things are opposites, though, they are also partners.

Our evil inclination is not necessarily something we want to get rid of. It is powerful in its ability to motivate us and give us passion.

Once we find our fire, we can channel it into the yetzer tov and accomplish that much more in terms of serving G-d, ourselves and others.

Thus, the double bet in Deuteronomy is taken to mean “with your two hearts.”

It is explained in the Talmud, B’rachot 9:5, one should bless the evil just as one blesses the good. For it is written, “You shall love the Eternal your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your being.” “With all your heart (double bet)” means “with your two inclinations.”

It is precisely because of this commandment that I believe we continue to fail in our love of G-d. We forget to love G-d with our two hearts. As long as we continue to fall short in our portion of the quid pro quo, Moshieach will remain hidden from us, and the promise of a world renewed will remain elusive.

May each of us remember our two hearts in the coming year.

L’shana tova.

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