Upon Your Heart and Soul

By Rabbi Dovid Markel


In the recitation of the shema that is said twice daily the following verse[1] is read: “You shall place these words of Mine upon your heart and upon your soul; you shall bind them for a sign upon your arm and let them be an ornament between your eyes.”

The directive to place G-d’s words upon our hearts and souls seems curious; wouldn’t it make more sense if we were commanded to internalize the message of Torah rather than placing them externally on our hearts and souls?

The specific wording of this verse though communicates a vital message. All too often we subconsciously impede our own efforts to be stimulated and inspired by Torah’s message. We convince ourselves that it is too difficult to truly internalize the idealistic and flawless lifestyle that Judaism depicts.

Knowing that our hearts can never be truthful to the fervent, uncompromising words of the Torah, we do not even try. We tell ourselves that it is better to be authentic to ourselves than to be hypocrites and live a lie.

It is this thought process that this statement of the Torah wishes to impugn. When the Torah commands to “place these words…upon your heart and upon your soul,” it is instructing us that our mandate—as human beings who are not able to reach perfection—is merely to put these words on top of our minds and hearts; not to place them inside of our minds and hearts.

We are urged to study Torah, pray and attempt to inspire ourselves, at least superficially. G-d will do the rest and take the inspiration that is atop our hearts in a peripheral motivation and arouse our hearts and souls to ultimately internalize Torah’s message!

[1] Devarim, 11:18

2 thoughts on “Upon Your Heart and Soul

  1. Sara Weinstein

    This is a very well-written article which teaches a beautiful lesson quite eloquently and in a succinct way. Thank you for bringing it to our attention!


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