Day 22 – Lev Tov
The Mussar Institute is doing an omer series based on the 48 skills necessary to acquire Torah, listed in Avos 6:6. I was given the task of writing two entries — day 5, eimah (fear) and this one for day 22 — Leiv Tov (A Good Heart). Here’s the email:
Counting the Omer with Rabbi Susie Moskowitz
Day 22 — Goodheartedness
Lev Tov • לב טוב
By Rabbi Micha Berger, Passaic, New Jersey
Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai asked his five prize students, “What is the straight path that a person should cling to?” Each gave a different answer – “a good eye”, “a good friend”, “a good neighbor”, “foreseeing the consequences” of one’s actions. But it was Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh’s answer that the teacher praised as being superior, since it includes all the others, “A good heart.”
The Zohar, Kabbalah’s primary text, tells us in the name of Rabbi Eliezer (Toledot § 54), “‘A good heart’ is a construction of body and soul.” The physical heart is at the center of a person’s body, and the metaphoric heart is at the center of our entire existence. So, while in contemporary culture we think of the heart as the seat of the emotions, in Jewish tradition the heart is where everything comes together – body and soul, intellect and emotion, desire and will. The path of the good heart navigates the conflicts and the balances between them.
Thus, having “a good heart” means looking for the best in others, with “a good eye”, rather than being jealous of them, so that we are good friends to those close to us, and a solid neighbor to our acquaintances. To be present in the right amounts for the betterment of everyone. However, none of this is possible without “foreseeing the consequences” of our actions and letting them guide us, rather the pursuing immediate gratification.
Walking the path of the good heart means knowing how and when to use each of our other gifts.
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