Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, an important Jewish sage and a disciple of the great Rabbi Hillel, was a leader of the Jewish people after the destruction of the Second Temple. He had five primary disciples. He told them to go out and see “what is the proper way to which a person should cling.” The students answered:
Rabbi Eliezer said, “A good eye.” Rabbi Yehoshua said, “A good friend.” Rabbi Yose said, “A good neighbor.” Rabbi Shimon, “One who considers the outcome of a deed.” Rabbi Elazar said, “A good heart.”
Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai said, “I prefer the words of Rabbi Elazar because your words are included in his.” Rabbi Elazar’s answer, a good heart, includes a good eye, friend, and neighbor, and someone mindful of the future.
How do we get a good heart, a lev tov? You have to make it yourself. You have to train yourself to look for opportunities. You can’t get it all over night. It takes a little work every day. Just a little. Every day. It’s why I started our Year of Living Jewishly, so each of us can add another new mitzvah each week, little by little building for ourselves a good heart. Your mitzvah of the week is to consider what it means to have a lev heart, a good heart. You might think of your role models – what have they done to make you think they possess a lev tov? What can you emulate from their behavior or learn from them? A starting place to consider (from an article in a past issue of Reform Judaism magazine), complete the following: “I am demonstrating awhen I…”
(This message was inspired by a message written by Jordan Block.)
Make you have a week of blessings and a Shabbat of Peace,
Rabbi Debbie Israel