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One of the hardest things to understand about the Exodus story is – what was Pharaoh thinking? How did he have the emotional ability not to give in, after suffering such great plagues, each one worse than the next?

The Torah answers that it was the power of the heart that did it. וַיִּכְבַּד֙ לֵ֣ב פַּרְעֹ֔ה וְלֹ֥א שִׁלַּ֖ח אֶת־הָעָֽם  And the heart of Pharaoh became heavy, and he did not send away the nation. Up until the sixth plague, the plague of שחין boils, Pharaoh hardened his own heart, as is clear from Onkelos, ואתיקר לבא דפרעה.  It was only from the sixth plague on that G-d hardened the heart of Pharaoh. How did Pharaoh change his heart, and what does that even mean?

The Kriyat Shema commands us to be very in tune with our hearts. We are to love G-d with all our heart, take the words to heart, serve with all our hearts, and to watch over that same heart, that it won’t go astray. If we are exiled, it is for straying after our hearts, and the only way to get out of exile is by placing these words on our hearts. Everything is about the heart! The same heart can be a source of connection to G-d, and it can also be the source of distancing ourselves from G-d! The heart is what got us into exile, and it is the heart that will bring our redemption!

What is included in the heart? The Mishna tells us in Avot that “a good heart includes a good eye, a good friend, a good neighbor, and… the ability to see into the future, or know the results of your actions.” צאו וראו איזוהי דרך ישרה שידבק בה האדם רבי אליעזר אומר עין טובה רבי יהושע אומר חבר טוב רבי יוסי אומר שכן טוב רבי שמעון אומר הרואה את הנולד רבי אלעזר אומר לב טוב אמר להם רואה אני את דברי אלעזר בן ערך שבכלל דבריו דבריכם   (Avot 2;9) A Good Eye, means, to be happy to see that others have more than you do, and to be happy with what you have; to live within your means, spending less money than you are making. Good friend and good neighbor means to connect to good friends and neighbors, and to be a good friend and neighbor to others. These are all heart-related, all connected to good character.

There is one element of a good heart that is mentioned in the Mishna in Avot which seems unrelated to the heart, but rather to the intellect.  הרואה את הנולד Seeing the results of your actions, and predicting correctly. But isn’t that connected to the intellect? Didn’t the Elders of the South tell Alexander the Great, איזהו חכם הרואה את הנולד that a wise man is one that sees the result of his actions and predicts correctly? (see Tamid 32a)

The answer is there is something called “Intuition Intelligence”. What is Intuition Intelligence, and how does someone improve it? I.I. is not just a hunch about what is going to happen. It is not the brain analyzing, but it is nonlinear knowledge, listening to both your mind and your gut, and to how you feel “you know” things are going to turn out, although you can’t prove or explain why.

When deciding who you should build relationships with, be in tuned not only to what you see and hear, but how does this person make you feel? Comfortable, or tense? Positive energy or negative energy? Motivated or depleted? Drained or energetic? In order for you to tap into this intuition, you need to take a three-minute mediation/break, time alone to tune out from the opinions and views of other people, so that you can tune into your own intuition. There are many types of intelligence, but the intelligence of intuition is the greatest of them all. It will tell you who to associate with, and it will help you contemplate the future and the results of your actions. Your intuition intelligence is so important that when you make business decisions, relationship decisions, what is on paper, resume, or prospect, is nowhere near as important as how you feel, when you actually go into an investment or how you feel when you get to see enough of the person that you want to build a relationship with. Anyone can put down numbers on a paper or make themselves look persuasive, but it is the intuition, that feeling from somewhere deep within one’s heart that will make the decision.

Although Pharaoh was one of the smartest gentiles ever, who knew 70 languages (Sotah 36b) and was the head sorcerer of Egypt, (Zohar 2,28) once the plague was over, he totally forgot Who he was dealing with, and what the results of his actions would be, and refused to release the Jews. How was Pharaoh able to continue to act so irrationally?! And what does it have to do with the heart?

The answer is enlightening, and it is the secret to serving G-d. Although the mind makes decisions based on the information it is given, it is the heart and the gut that present the information to the mind. It is the heart that gathers information from past and present experience and future speculation, that presents the heart what to focuses on, for the mind to decide. It is the heart that is the place of intuition, to predict and speculate, because the mind does not see what is not in front of it. It is the heart that imagines reward and punishment, reward for all good behavior, and punishment for all bad. The heart that imagines the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai and how Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov lived their lives. Our Rabbis teach us that no matter how smart a person may be, if the heart is getting some personal gain, it can be easily side-tracked, ignoring all logical ramifications, and come up with some incorrect intuition. Smart people smoke, gamble, get addicted to inappropriate content and browsing and abusive behavior, although there are scientifically proven very negative ramifications to their behavior and actions. Why? How? Because when the heart has something to gain, it can ignore results of one’s actions and does not even bring factual ramifications to the mind, to decide, as if this is not at all a factor.

This ability to see the reward and punishment of the future, the result of actions, is the secret to being G-d-fearing. In the Shema, we are warned that when life is good, not to forget about the reward and punishment for our actions. וְנָתַתִּ֧י מְטַֽר־אַרְצְכֶ֛ם בְּעִתּ֖וֹ יוֹרֶ֣ה וּמַלְק֑וֹשׁ וְאָסַפְתָּ֣ דְגָנֶ֔ךָ וְתִֽירֹשְׁךָ֖ וְיִצְהָרֶֽךָ : וְנָתַתִּ֛י עֵ֥שֶׂב בְּשָׂדְךָ֖ לִבְהֶמְתֶּ֑ךָ וְאָכַלְתָּ֖ וְשָׂבָֽעְתָּ : הִשָּֽׁמְר֣וּ לָכֶ֔ם פֶּ֥ן יִפְתֶּ֖ה לְבַבְכֶ֑ם… The reason why people ignore reward and punishment is the same reason why Pharaoh ignored the plagues and the outcome of his actions. It is because the heart gets hyper-focused on the present, enjoying the pleasure of the fleeting moment, forgetting that G-d is not limited by time, to bring about reward and punishment. Pharaoh said to himself, “For the meantime, everything is fine. Why complicate things?”

This is the lesson of Shemot, from the very beginning. וַיְהִ֕י כִּֽי־יָֽרְא֥וּ הַֽמְיַלְּדֹ֖ת אֶת־הָאֱלֹקים וַיַּ֥עַשׂ לָהֶ֖ם בָּתִּֽים: At the outset of Shemot, when Shifra and Puah, a.k.a. Yochebed and Miriam, ignored Pharaoh’s threats to kill the Jewish baby boys and feared G-d instead, … the passuk says that G-d made them “houses”. What are these houses, that Yochebed and Miriam deserved? Houses of Kohanim and Royalty. Yochebed deserved, for her bravery, to be the mother of Aharon, the father of Kohanim, and of Moshe, who brought the Torah down to the Jewish Nation. Miriam, a.k.a. Efrat, deserved to be the matriarch of K. David; and Betzalel, who built the Mishkan, was her grandson. This is from the only places of the Torah, that reward and punishment are blatant. Why? Because the whole Sefer Shemot is the book of reward and punishment. G-d does not get involved, to do His reward/punishment thing, when you expect Him to. He has a LOT of patience, as He is above time. This is a fundamental of faith, and something we need to internalize on a consistent basis, if we want pure, eternal, Yirat HaShem – awe of G-d. יִרְאַ֤ת יְקֹוָ֨ק׀ טְהוֹרָה֘ עוֹמֶ֪דֶת לָ֫עַ֥ד. When someone has self-awareness, they have intuition, and they won’t behave in ways that are self- detrimental.

What got us into exile was forgetting that G-d has patience, ignoring our intuition, allowing our hearts to be blinded by our desires, greed and passions. One of the reasons why we went into exile was because we did not focus on Shema with all our hearts, morning and night (Yalkut Shimoni Yeshayahu 402) The way to bring back the Mashiach is through tapping into genuine spiritual motivation, meditation and focus, while praying. Tapping into the heart.  Rabbenu Bachye writes, that the reason why we are so disconnected from the heart, from Shaar Habechina of the Hovot Halevovot, is because our hearts are busy running after money, pleasure and material gain. By overcoming these false passions, by reining in these drives, a person can recognize G-d and see how G-d is the World, and fear Him.



About the author, Yosef

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