A Change of Hearts

August 19, 2012 - 3:37 pm

“Teach me your way, Lord,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.” — Psalm 86:11

Twice a day, Jewish people say a prayer known as the Shema. The Shema is one of Judaism’s most sacred prayers, and its words are direct quotes from the Scriptures. It begins “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). That is followed by “Love the Lord  your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

There is something very peculiar about this verse when read in the original Hebrew. The word for “heart” is spelled incorrectly. Its middle letter is repeated. The Sages teach that this spelling is no mistake. The Scripture is telling us that every person has two hearts. More specifically, one heart that is divided.

Though we may not have realized that we have two hearts, we have certainly experienced it. Hasn’t your heart often wanted two things at the same time? Most of the time our struggle comes because part of our heart wants what we think is in our best interest, while the other part wants what’s best for God. We have our animal side and our angelic side. Part of us is drawn to all things material while the other part seeks spirit. We live with this constant conflict. That is why in Psalm 86, King David prays for “an undivided heart.”

But does this mean we are destined to be at war with ourselves for the rest of our lives?

The Scripture offers an emphatic “No!” When Scripture tells us to serve God with all of our heart, it means with both parts of our heart. Both of our hearts can be united in service of God.

There is nothing physical that can’t become spiritual. We can elevate every animalistic action by infusing it with holiness. When we eat, we make blessings and thank God for sustenance. Sleep is rest for the purpose of serving God in the morning. Physical intimacy is for creating loving relationships and godly families.  Everything that we love to do can be used to serve the Lord.

Our animal side is not, in and of itself, bad. It is full of passion and energy. Yet, left unchecked, passion can be deadly. But in service of God, it brings life. Do you love music? Make music to God. Are you passionate about beauty? Create inspiring art. If your passion is food, surely you can find a way to share some with the needy.

Our inner war ends when we surrender our hearts — both of them — to God.


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