Mind over heart

Shoftim is the 48th parashah of the Pentateuch. The number 48 is the numerical value of the word “mind” (מֹחַ), which immediately associates us with the phrase in the Zohar, “The mind rules over the heart” (מֹחַ שָׁלִיט עַל הַלֵב), which in the classic text of Chassidut, the Tanya forms one of the most profound and fundamental tenets of our service of God.

Of the different officials who are enumerated in our parashah, the foremost, mentioned in the opening verse of the parashah, is the judge who represents the lucid mind of Torah study and sanctity. The heart of the nation is represented by the king, who is completely subject to the rulings of the Torah scholars. This is true to such an extent that in certain cases, the judges are referred to as “God” (אֿלֹהִים), because the ability to judge is one of the principal attributes of God, as the verse states, “For God judges; this [individual] He deposes and this one He elevates.”[1] In contrast, the king is referred to as a “prince” (נשיא) and being mortal, he is liable to sin as the verse states, “When a prince sins.”[2] In fact, one of the reasons why the Torah limits the king’s number of wives and horses is, “so that his heart shall not become haughty,” relating in particular to the heart’s proclivity to sin. This is why the king’s special commandment is to carry a Torah scroll against his heart so that the Torah, his judge and his rational mind, will rule over his heart and he won’t become arrogant over his brethren. Obviously, the king needs to be subject to “God,” represented here by the judges.

Nonetheless, the king has special privileges that no other Jew has, even the judges. This comes to reveal, as Chassidut innovates, that although the Torah’s rulings must be absolutely abided to even by the king, the heart of the nation, there is a more profound level at which “the innermost point of the heart rules over the mind.” The king in particular bears the paradox of conveying an outer casing of sovereignty, while nurturing an inner sense of profound lowliness and humility. Whereas by studying the Torah’s laws, one can reach a level of knowing the entire Torah, the innermost point of the king’s humility is infinite, “The heart of kings is unfathomable.”[3] Thus, the king’s external demeanor is subject to the rulings and teachings of the judges, but his innermost core of humility actually rises above their level and rules over them.

Within our personal Divine service, this level is that of a completely righteous individual who has refined himself to such an extent that he naturally acts accurately according to the Torah’s principles without having to deduce them rationally from his Torah knowledge.[4]

[1] Psalms 74:8.

[2] Leviticus 4:22.

[3] Proverbs 25:3.

[4] This is the level of “natural consciousness” described in our book מודעות טבעית and elsewhere.

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