Wisely Using Our Minds

Much is written in psychological and psychiatric literature about the dangers of over-intellectualizing.  It short-circuits our other ways of processing information, it blocks and masks our emotions and instincts.  All too often, it is trapped in the superficial, only accepting the empirical and denying all other forms knowledge can take.

This tragically inadequate approach to Torah manifests both among believers, who limit their study of Torah to ever-less relevant and unlikely halachic trivia (usually mandating ever stricter and narrower “observance”) as well as among doubters who inappropriately apply secular literary theories (often with political hidden agendas) to discredit, invalidate and trivialize the Torah itself.

Not surprisingly, our tradition already contains a remedy for this.  At the end of our daily recital of the קרבנות, Karbonot, sacrificial Temple service, we recite the Thirteen Hermeneutical Principles of Rabbi Ishmael, by which the secrets of the Torah are unlocked.  Later, most days, after the Amida (the standing, daily prayer that is the central focus of each of the three daily prayer services) and before Tachanun (a direct supplication for Divine Mercy since none of us ever go through an entire day with no mis-steps) we recite the Thirteen Principes of Divine Mercy, given to Moshe to use as an appeal when the Nation is in great trouble.

There are no coincidences in the subtle, delicate and infinitely complex Torah.  That the number thirteen is emphasized in both lists hints to us that they are, in some deep way, related.  In this case, we’re told that the process of unlocking the secrets of the Torah is exactly the same as clearing and rectifying our emotions and instincts.  In other words, we’re told, almost explicitly, that in order to properly use our minds we must, at the same time, open our emotions.  Only when our intellectual processes are filtered through our balanced emotions can they produce healthy, productive and holy action.

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2 Responses to Wisely Using Our Minds

  1. Rebecca Newman says:

    Really nice. Thank you for sending this. If you have teh capacity for one more mishaberah today and in the coming week, Gary’s best friend, Larry Chaset is undergoing triple bypass this morning in San Francisco. All help is wished for.

    Love, Becky

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