Israel, Zionism and “a heart of flesh”

Israel’s Independence Day is a day celebrating Zionism’s miracle; but for all the other days of the year we need to live by two of Prophet Ezekiel’s predictions:

1– “Thus says the Lord YHVH: I will gather you from the nations and assemble you from the countries where you were scattered; and I will give you the land of Israel.” (Ezekiel 11:17) and just two verses afterwards

2–… “I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will place in their midst; I will remove the stone heart from their bodies and give them a heart of flesh. That they may walk in my statues, keep my ordinances and do them; that they should be my people and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19&20)

What does a stone heart mean? Under certain conditions bones and wood become petrified, arteries calcify, organizations and institutions ossify, and religions become rigid and narrow minded. In the centuries prior to the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel this happened to Judaism.

Then a new spirit rose up in the Jewish people (Hassidism, Reform Judaism, Zionism and Feminism) which revitalized and renewed the Jewish people with new ideas and with a new heart of flesh (converts to Judaism).

What does a heart of flesh mean? A calcified heart doesn’t love others who think, feel, or act differently. A calcified mind can’t create new solutions to current political, economic, religious, and spiritual problems or issues.

A heart of flesh is able to reach out and love other people. A heart of flesh is able to overcome fears, anxieties, hatreds and bigotry. A heart of flesh is able to keep faith, hope. mercy and trust in God alive, even in negative times. A heart of flesh is a circumcised heart which is always both disciplined and loving.

What does a new spirit mean? One day a young man standing in the middle of a town proclaimed that he had the most beautiful heart possible. A large crowd gathered and all admired his heart, for it was perfect. There was not a mark or a flaw in it. Yes, they agreed it truly was the most beautiful heart they had ever seen. The young man was very proud and boasted about his beautiful heart, which was the result of his following a path of calmness and detachment.

Then an old Rabbi named Akiba appeared at the front of the crowd and said, “Why your heart is not nearly as beautiful as mine.” The crowd and the young man looked at the old man’s heart. It was beating strongly, but full of scars, it had places where pieces had been removed and other pieces put in, but they didn’t fit quite right and there were several jagged edges.

In fact, in some places there were deep gouges where whole pieces were missing. The people stared. How can Rabbi Akiba say his heart is more beautiful, they thought?

The young man looked at the old man’s heart and laughed. “You must be joking,” he said. “My heart is perfect and yours is a mess of scars and tears.”

“Yes,” said Rabbi Akiba, “yours does look perfect, but I would never trade with you. You see, every scar represents a person to whom I have given my love. I tear out a piece of my heart and give it to them, and often they give me a piece of their heart, which fits into an empty place in my heart. But because the pieces aren’t exactly equal I have some rough edges, which I cherish, because they remind me of the love we shared.

Sometimes I give pieces of my heart away, and the other person doesn’t return a piece of his or her heart to me. These are the empty gouges…giving love is taking a chance. And then there are places where my heart is broken, reminding me of the love I have had, and lost. I then say the mourners prayer, the Kaddish, for it is better to love and lose than never to love at all. My heart is a circumcised heart.”

The young man stood silently with tears running down his cheeks. He walked up to the old man, reached into his perfect young and beautiful heart and ripped a piece out. He offered it to the old man with trembling hands. Rabbi Akiba took his offering, placed it in his heart and then took a piece from his old scarred heart and placed it in the wound in the young man’s heart.

It fit, but not perfectly, as there were some jagged edges. The young man looked at his heart, not perfect anymore but more beautiful than ever, since love from Rabbi Akiba’s heart flowed into his. They embraced and walked away side by side.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 250 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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