Near the end of this Torah reading, Moses tells the people: “G‑d has not given you a knowing heart... until this present day.” What does he mean by “a knowing heart”? A heart that responds to the knowledge it has been given, that what it understands means something on a personal level.

Too often, we know something, but our knowledge is abstract. It does not affect our hearts or souls. Just as in our physical bodies, there is a contraction at the neck that separates our heads from our trunks, so too, there is often a gap separating our minds from our hearts. This applies even with regard to ordinary ideas and concepts. Certainly, it applies with regard to spiritual matters.

“A knowing heart,” by contrast, translates the information the mind processes into feelings that motivate a person to actually change his conduct. After leading the people for 40 years, Moses felt that they had finally reached this level.

What motivated Moses to say this? He had written a Torah scroll and given it to the tribe of Levi. The remainder of the Jewish people came to him with a complaint: “Did we not receive the Torah as well?”

For all the 40 years the Jews were in the desert, they lived with the Torah; they studied it, obeyed its commandments, and taught it to their children, but they did not see it as their own. It was G‑d’s Torah. Of course, they were involved with its study and practice, but it was like the difference between a hired worker and the owner of a business. A worker may be devoted and put in long hours, but at night he goes home and does not give the business a second thought.

Not so the owner. What is he thinking of at night? His business.

After 40 years, Moses saw that the Jewish people were beginning to look at the Torah as their own. As their teacher, this was his greatest satisfaction.

Looking to the Horizon

Among the prophecies of the ultimate redemption is Ezekiel’s message: “I will give them a unified heart... and I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.”

There are two messages here. First, unlike the situation in the present era where we often encounter fragmented personalities, people who have difficulty integrating their different drives and motivations, in the era of Mashiach, we will be focused. The atmosphere of spiritual purpose that will prevail at that time will enable us to coordinate all the varied aspects of our personality into a unified approach.

Secondly, “the knowing heart” spoken about above will not be something that we must work to achieve, but will be a natural spontaneous part of our makeup. Instead of an unresponsive heart of stone, we will have a soft heart of flesh, a heart which takes in the brain’s messages and reacts appropriately.

Implied is that the two concepts are interrelated. Why are our hearts not responsive? Because they are torn in too many directions. Were we able to coordinate and harmonize these different centrifugal thrusts, our feelings would flow naturally and spontaneously.

Now, the purpose of elaborating on the redemption is not merely to inspire us with hopes of the future but also to enable us to appreciate how we can live our lives at present. Although in a complete sense, until Mashiach actually comes, we will be unable to put into practice the spiritual motifs that will prevail in that ultimate era, it is possible to anticipate that future era and experience a foretaste of the way we will live then in our lives at present. When our lives are dedicated to spiritual purpose, we feel a wholesome sense of fulfillment that establishes harmony between all the diverse elements of our beings.

This unity is not manufactured. On the contrary, it reflects the inner truth of a person’s being, for the soul is “an actual part of G‑d from above.” All of our potentials reflect this fundamental G‑dly core. And when we are focused on this G‑dly potential, we are able to appreciate the G‑dly sparks that exist in every element of existence.