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A Good Eye and A Good Heart

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

Shemini Atzeret, (literally “The Eighth Day of Assembly”) which starts tonight, is linked to Sukkot but is a holiday in its own right. The idea behind the day is a beautiful one. There are no specific mitzvot that we do on this day. After the closeness with G-d we have attained this month, He just wants one more day with us. Rashi, the famous Torah commentator, likens it to a king who invites his sons to feast with him for several days and when the time comes for them to leave he asks them to stay just one more day because it is difficult for them to part.[1]

On Monday night, Simchas Torah (literally “Rejoicing of/with the Torah”) begins. We celebrate the completion of the annual Torah reading. Simchas Torah is the culmination of the High Holidays and a time to contemplate what to take away from this season for the rest of the year. The answer lies in the last line and the first line of the Torah, which we read in succession on Simchas Torah.[2] The Chassidic Sages illuminate how these two verses reveal a secret as to how to be a vessel to receive the Torah: with a good eye and a good heart.[3] A good eye and a good heart, says the Nesivos Sholom, are the two qualities that lead one to great spiritual growth, to great joy, to faith, and to being truly rich, which the Torah defines as “being happy with one’s lot.”[4]

This past Shabbos, we read the book of Ecclesiastes (Kohelet). In it, King Solomon wrote the famous words, “Futility of futilities. All is futile!”[5] After indulging in all of the pleasures of this world, King Solomon understood that spiritual growth is the only lasting thing in this world. Materialism is only valuable in helping us to be our best selves. This world has a lot of distractions and allures, but I bless us that we remember what is truly important in life and have a year where we develop a good eye and a good heart, which will bring us to great heights in our relationship with ourselves, others, and G-d.

Resource Suggestion: Rabbi Eli Deutsch tells Rebbe Nachman of Bresolv’s famous story, the Sophisticate and the Simpleton, which further illustrates today’s ideas. This past week was the anniversary of the Rebbe’s passing. May the learning of his Torah be for a blessing.

Book Suggestion: Positive Word Power (This book is arranged for daily study. In just five minutes a day, you can learn about the Jewish laws and ideas behind speech. Good speech stems from a good eye and a good heart.)

[2] The last line of the Torah is “That Moshe wrought for the eyes of all Israel.” The Chassidic masters of Slonim teach that the first three letters of the last three words of the Torah, when rearranged, form the word Kli, which is a vessel. The last letter of the Torah, Lamed, and the first letter of the Torah, Bet, form the word Lev, which means heart. The Nesivos Sholom explains that the first word of the Torah, Bereishis (“In the Beginning”) can be rearranged to read, “Bi Raishit” (“[Two aspects] of the beginning.”) Taken together, “The implications of these allusions is that the Torah is identifying the element[s] most essential to serving as an appropriate vessel to contain the entire Torah- namely, the lev (heart)…and the ayin (eye).” Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg, Gems From The Nesivos Sholom, Sukkot and Simchat Torah, p. 347-356.

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