Monday, March 12, 2007
On Matters of the Heart
By Michelle Young
In this week's Torah portion, Vayakhel, Moses assembles the entire Israelite community and tells them what God has commanded. He instructs the people to "take gifts" to God to help create the sacred Mishkan--the Tabernacle. (Exodus 35:4-9) As a result, "Men and women, all whose hearts moved them, all who would make an elevation offering of gold to Adonai, came bringing brooches, earrings, rings, and pendants--gold objects of all kinds." (Exodus 35:22)
The Torah in this instance states that the motivation for the Israelites' actions came from their hearts. Visualizing the many people who, "moved by their hearts," brought their valuables to support the greater needs of the community evokes a striking image. It makes us wonder how were they able to respond so quickly and collectively. What made their hearts quicken?
Our tradition states: "Do not stand too long, for standing too long is harmful to the heart." (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Baba Batra 16b) A heart that is not used, one that is not active and thus becomes insensitive to the needs and pressures of the outside community, deteriorates and can no longer contribute to the health of the entire body.
What, on the other hand, does having a heart that is moved--or, as various translations indicate, having a heart that is "lifted" or a "willing heart"--mean? Our tradition teaches us about many different aspects of the heart: We read of Pharaoh's heart that was "hardened" toward the Jewish people. We sing the lyrics "So long as still within the innermost heart a Jewish spirit sings… our hope is not lost" in Hatikvah [the national anthem of the State of Israel]. During t'filah (prayer) we pray to love God with all of our heart and with all of our soul.
It is a Yiddish saying, however, that I believe encapsulates the meaning of the heartfelt actions described in Parashat Vayakhel: Di klainer hartz nemt arum di groisseh velt, "The heart is small and embraces the whole wide world."
The heart is indeed small--just the size of a fist--but it helps us cope with the many challenges that we face in our communities. Like this hand tucked inside each of us, the heart has the power to strike like a fist or to gather and embrace like an open hand. It is up to each of us to learn how to move our heart to embrace the world
I love the quote from above During t'filah (prayer) we pray to love God with all of our heart and with all of our soul. It makes me think of mezuzot- again. I guess anything makes me think of mezuzot since I have so many beautiful ones cataloged in my del.icio.us account. These mezuzot I show here today are by the artist
Ira Sherman; he and his wife are Judaica creators although they work in different media. Ira Sherman is an artist of rare versatility and a master of metalsmithing. In all his varied artistic fields of jewelry design, sculpture, architectural metal work and Judaica, there emerges a passion and unique aesthetic that is recognizable in everything he creates. The single mezuzah with the surrounding orb was one of the winners of the 2002 Spertus Prize for Judaica. Enjoy looking