I'm getting conflicting messages on the mind/heart thing. The Sages encourage us that the mind should rule and guide the heart. Then they tell us that "G‑d desires the heart." Which is it?


Actually, there is one mind and two hearts. There is the outer heart, that part of us that just reacts to the world, forever chasing whatever looks good to it, running from whatever looks bad and barking at whatever looks like it should be attacked. Then there is the inner heart, where the fire of the soul burns in serene simplicity, waiting for us to fan its flames.

There is a gateway to the inner heart and its key is the mind. Without the mind, it is far too easy to fool yourself, to believe you are sincere and earnest when in truth all that leads you is a self-centered heart. All too often, we see how people justify the most unethical behavior by saying, "my heart told me this was right." But the heart to which they hearkened was the animal heart that barks in the forest. Often, it barks so loud, the inner heart cannot at all be heard.

Which is why we need the mind: to sit and contemplate, to focus on the depth of what our inner heart is telling us, until its voice can be heard, amplified and crystal clear.

Of course, we have seen many stuck at the gate, unable to proceed forward, as though the gate itself became the goal.

Rabbi Zev Wolf of Nikolaiev told it as a parable. He told of the king who at the height of a one crazy, drunken party, announced that on a certain day anyone of his kingdom could come and take whatever they wished of the royal treasure. Then, the next morning he was sober and couldn't believe what he had done. Fortunately for him, his wise advisers came up with a plan.

On the appointed day, the gates of the palace courtyard opened and the thousands who had camped out the night before poured in. Yet within a few seconds, they were dumb in their tracks. The most magnificent music they had ever heard wafted through the air while exotic birds flew overhead from one flowering tree to the next. The sights, the smells, and, most of all, the sound of the exquisite music that entered their ears, grabbed them as though they had been drugged and they could proceed no further.

None of them save one bright young man. He plugged his ears with cotton and walked back and forth filling his wheelbarrow with fortune.

"Fools!" he cried. "This is only the courtyard! The real treasure that can acquire all this and much more lies beyond!"

The treasure of the palace, explained Reb Zev Wolf, that is the inner heart. The courtyard—that is the mind with all its games. Travel through the courtyard, but know your destination lies beyond...