For the week of September 15, 2001 / 27 Elul 5761
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 29:9 - 30:20
Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10-63:9

When the Heart Gets it

When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you (Devarim / Deuteronomy 30:1-3).

This section of the Torah looks ahead to the time when the people of Israel would be scattered among the nations of the world. This would happen because of a rejection of God's commandments. What at first sounds like a warning appears to actually be a prediction that this will happen. Thankfully that is not the whole story. After their experience of rejection and exile, they would be restored to the Land and be accepted by God once again.

It is important to note that this acceptance would be preceded by changes in the people themselves, not just due to outside forces. The first step in the process of restoring a right relationship with him is described as taking what they had been experiencing to heart.

What does it mean to take something to heart? We often go through things in life with a very low level of awareness. So many things happen around us and to us, and yet we live as if we were blind to them. Other times we may be very aware of these things. We may think about them, analyze them, speak about them, complain about them, but they don't make any real positive difference to us. They don't actually affect how we live.

The things we take to heart matter to us; they are important to us; they become part of us. The things we take to heart inform and affect our decisions.

We often fool ourselves into thinking that the things we say we believe really matter to us, and yet how many resolutions have we made that we haven't kept even for a short time. We claim to value something, but it never becomes part of our lives, because we failed to take it to heart.

The Torah teaches us that the people of Israel would experience a great return to God only when they took what had been happening to them to heart. No amount of religion, or religious talk would lead them back to God. Once they fully accept that what has happened to them is because of how they related to God, then the process of restoration begins.

Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that it is simply by filling ourselves with spiritual notions and religious activities that we will truly know God. Let us take this to heart.

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