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Parashat Shoftim: Be Wholehearted

Do you think more often with your head or your heart? Do you think logically through decisions or do you feel them? How do you process things? Is there a time for both? I pose these questions because we are now in the Hebrew month of Elul, which is known as a time for self-reflection and searching within to prepare for new beginnings and the Jewish New Year. It is a time we relive the choices we made throughout the year. It is a time we judge ourselves before we are judged by G-d. How many mistakes did you make? Could you do better? What can you change in your future? It is a time we are often the most harsh with ourselves. How we think through and process things matter, whether with our heads or our hearts. How we treat ourselves during this time matters. Do you punish yourself for the past, or use your choices to fuel the future?

In this week’s Torah portion, Shoftim, in the midst of being told what we shouldn’t be (a soothsayer, sorcerer, or necromancer), we are told to, “Be wholehearted with G-d (Deuteronomy 18:13).” Again our hearts are brought to the forefront. We built the Tabernacle, G-d’s dwelling place, as well as our community gathering place with heart. But more than having heart, what does it mean to be “wholehearted”? The Torah commentator Bachya defined “wholehearted” as, “You should know that the precepts of the heart imply a complete harmony between our inner and outward actions, as regards the service to the Lord, till the heart and tongue and other limbs will be one with each other, each one justifying and bearing witness in favor of the other, neither contradicting nor belying each other.” It struck me, how much this idea of wholeheartedness truly flows into the time period we are in now, specifically this time of self-reflection and growth. The idea that our inner selves, our hopes, and our dreams, should reflect in our real world actions. More than that, if they don’t, that it can be something to strive for.

Tonight at your Shabbat dinner table if you decide to start reflecting, don’t forget to bring your heart with you. This is a time where we should let our minds rest, and let our hearts drive us. This is a time we can strive to be “wholehearted.” Ask yourself, does your inner self match your outer actions? Are you in harmony? What can you do to get there?

Shabbat Shalom!