Circumcise your….Heart – Parshat Nitzavim

Shock treatment is a tool rarely used in education. Being aware of the students' emotional state when trying to teach or discipline is expected even from the beginning teacher. If the teacher is at all concerned about causing any emotional trauma, they are expected to exercise caution.

The Torah can be very creative and illustrative.1 We find this week's parsha to be an example of that. "And God will circumcise your heart and that of your children to love God with all your heart and soul for your life." That sounds a bit dangerous, no? Circumcising the heart? Will He use anaesthesia? This is obviously not to be taken literally. Abarbanel explains simply that this means that we are to open our hearts to our spiritual side and not just be concerned with physical or emotional health. The direction seems to be of being able to really "live" your life more fully. So what happens at the end of the verse? What is being added by those last words "for your life"? The Netziv explains beautifully that this procedure will open us up to fully experience the joy of living. When the outer layers of our hearts are peeled away, then we will be able to truly enjoy life. Our hearts and psyches may be involved in assuring our survival without a thought to the greater purpose. When we can hook into this extra, spiritual side of who we are and what we are doing here, then our appreciation of life will increase.

How often do we get stuck in the rut of our own choosing and don’t allow ourselves to fully enjoy what's going on around us? We choose one area of life to focus on and the rest becomes background. There are people who are happy with that. Many are not.

We can become so focused on the greater goal and we lose the ability to "live in the moment." Sometimes we can become aware of this trap on our own. Then we can make a choice how we wish to proceed.

This verse refers to the times when we don’t notice what is happening to us. So we are challenged to open up and experience our lives fully. As Dr. Viktor Frankl says, that "experiencing can be as valuable as achieving is therapeutic because it compensates for our one-sided emphasis on the external world of achievement at the expense of the internal world of experience.”

Upon approaching Rosh Hashanah, we can accept this challenge to enjoy life and what it brings to us, learn fortitude for the more difficult times and look forward to a year full of meaning, joy and physical and spiritual health.

Shana tova‼!

L'ilui nishmat my mother-in-law, Sara Raizel bat Yosef , z"l.


  1. Devarim 30:6
  2. Frankl, Viktor E.. The Doctor and the Soul (p. 299).

Have A Great Shabbat!laughing

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