Az Yashir: The Heart of Things
“The deep waters congealed in the heart of the Sea”. The Sea did not possess a heart, and now it was given a heart in order to punish the Egyptians who had a heart, yet they enslaved
the Children of Israel, subjecting them to all means of oppression. The oak tree which had no heart was given a heart in order to punish Avshalom who had a heart and deceived three hearts -the heart of his father, the heart of Beit Din, and the heart of the men of Israel. The heavens had no heart, but were given a heart and sent down Manna to nourish the Children of Israel who have a heart, and who accepted the Torah with all their heart, and who love their Creator with all their heart. (Midrash Tanchuma, Beshalach #17)
We know that inanimate objects do not possess a heart. We, on the other hand, pride ourselves in having a heart. We use and overuse the heart symbol; we sign it off at the bottom of letters, it adorns greeting cards, jewelery, chocolates and much more. What we do not always realize is the magnitude of the responsibility that comes with having been created with a heart; a real, pulsating heart.
Obviously, God did not need to give the sea and the tree a heart in order to punish the Egyptians and Avshalom, or give the heavens a heart to reward the Jewish people. The Midrash is illustrating its point with a powerful image. Nature does not have a “heart” to start with. It can go either way. Rashi defines “heart” as the essence and strength of a thing. The way man interacts with the world will determine how things will respond to him. The essence of objects will mirror the way we express our essence.
What happens when people act as though they were heartless? What happens when someone misuses his heart to hurt others? As he forfeits the qualities that make him human, things that are inanimate become invested with the “heart” that was corrupted by man, and will reflect the reality that he created against him.
What happens when every beat of our heart expresses our love for our Creator and for all of creation? Then, everything around us will be given a heart to love us back and to shower us with blessings from Above.
Tools: Pay attention to all the instances when we say the word “lev”, “levaveinu”, “levavecha” in the prayers. Ask God to help us open, purify and unify our heart to serve Him with love and integrity, and to be sensitive and compassionate to others.