What Happened to Your Heart?
I’d like to ask you a question: Why is the world falling apart?
People will come up with many creative answers: They will blame everyone from the Chinese to the Iranians; from the capitalists to the socialists. It’s the Democrats’ fault, it’s the Republicans’ fault. It’s the price of oil, it’s the price of eggs….
My friends, I have the answer and I won’t even charge you for it. The reason the world is falling apart is because we are ignoring the word of G-d, His Torah. Our Torah is the blueprint of the universe. Before G-d created the world, He created the Torah. Therefore, the Torah is the DNA of all reality. So, if the world looks like one big mutant cancer gene, it’s because we have scrambled the DNA and tried to create the world according to our own “architectural design.” That ambition has failed man, time and time again:
Adam sinned, he was thrown out of Eden and brought death to the world. The generation of the flood sinned and G-d brought the mighty flood; the people built a Tower of Babel and G-d punished them. Sodom and Gomorrah well, their fate wasn’t too pretty either.
You see, G-d is the master coder, and when we try to overwrite the program, we find ourselves faced with catastrophic glitches and disasters.
So why is the world broken? Because we ignore G-d’s will.
And there is one sin that I want to speak about that is at the root of it all – calloused hearts!
When someone came to Hillel and asked him to summarize the entire Torah on one foot, he said: “‘That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the entire Torah and the rest is commentary. Go and study it.’”
You see, my friends, all of Judaism depends on the ability to view another person’s life as just as real and significant as one views one’s own. If we don’t see the human being in the other person, then we certainly don’t see the G-d in them. When our egos are too big, we leave no breathing room for the existence of others. It may very well be that we are the lucky one, the rich one, the pretty one, the healthy one, the employed one, but that doesn’t cancel out the fact that everyone’s life matters. If others are not as lucky as we are, it doesn’t give us the right to disqualify their existence or emotions. We should have empathy, compassion and an opened hand and heart. And conversely for those who are less lucky, we have no right to dismiss the woes of the more fortunate with contemptuous comments such as, “Ah they are rich what do they know of suffering.” Pain, suffering, heartache, sickness and troubles have no tax bracket.
But we’ve become so callous and numb to the ordeals and dignity of others, that our feelings of superiority or inferiority and our massive egos dehumanize our brothers, our friends, our neighbors and our fellow citizens. We spurn and trample on the one principle which Hillel highlights as encompassing the entire Torah.
The Torah commands us, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In fact, the rabbis teach that you should pray for another before you pray for your own needs. The reward: You will benefit first.
G-d tells us to circumcise our hearts. The Rambam explains this as behaving fairly, justly, not only to people who are rich, powerful or popular but toward everyone. Have a heart for people who need your heart; have a dollar for people who need your dollar; Have a smile, a hug and kindness for people who need it, not just for people who can do something for you. Because that is just serving your own ends and using people as little props in your deceitful game of life.
Truly, we live in such an egotistical, self-absorbed world that it is no wonder that it is falling apart. It’s fractured by the pull of each man for himself. From selfies to the social media platforms which broadcast them, the obsession with self is nothing less than suicidal.
We deem others along with their ambitions and successes as threats to our own survival, and as such, everyone feels like an enemy and no one like a friend, a neighbor or a brother.
In this week's Parshah, Bo, we read about Pharaoh’s persistent refusal to let the Israelites go. Pharaoh deemed himself a god. He believed that he created the Nile and that he created himself. He rejected G-d. While the most devasting plague was yet to hit his country, the death of the firstborns of Egypt, he slept in his bed. While his country was being destroyed plague after plague, he was still able to sleep because he had a heart only for himself. It’s repeated many times that Pharaoh hardened his heart. That hardened heart ruined him and his country. Ego has only false gains, but its collateral damage will always bring justice in the end.
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G-d did not command us to love our parents in the Torah, just to respect them. But He did command us to love Him and to love our neighbor. Rabbi Akiva said that doing so is a fundamental principle of the Torah. “A soul enters this world for seventy or eighty years just to do a favor for another,” says the Baal Shem Tov.
Friends the very last letter of the Torah is a lamed and the first is a beit, combined they spell the world Lev, which means heart. We must have a heart! We put conditioner on our hair and skin to make it soft, more importantly we must condition our heart. Circumcise it, soften it, open it. If G-d gave us a heart, it’s because He wants us to use it!