Thursday, October 05, 2006


Cardiological Judaism

Rabbi Gustavo Surazski

According to our Sages (Leviticus Rabbah 30, 14), the Four Species used on Sukkot symbolize four different parts of the human body. The Etrog symbolizes the heart, the Lulav symbolizes the spine, the Hadas our eyes and the Arava our mouth.

In the light of this Midrash, I would like to comment on the holding of the Four Species together while saying the blessing over them.

There is a widespread phenomenon in our time I like to call "Cardiological Judaism". A Jew that says "I'm a Jew with all my heart, and I don't need anything else" falls under the category of a "Cardiological Jew".

The "Cardiological Judaism" dispute is not new; it has been going on for thousands of years within our nation. Paul of Tarsus (a Jew originally known as Shaul), and most commonly called the founder of Christianity, was the first to cancel the Mitzvah of the Brit Milah amongst the Jews that in time became Christians. He did so by saying that the circumcision should be performed in the heart rather than in the flesh.

The canceling of the Brit Milah and the emphasis put on the circumcision of the heart, is believed to be the turning point in the History of Christianity.

"Cardiological Judaism" (and with all due respect to other religions) was born when a charismatic Jew said out loud that the Jewish nation doesn't need any external sign or Mitzvah but only the belief in his heart, as all other body organs are secondary to it.

Today two thousand years later, scientific research shows that, statistically, the Jewish people are one of the ethnic and national groups with the highest percentage of heart disease. Is it possible that this is because "Cardiological Judaism" has "overloaded" the heart? Maybe because "Cardiological Judaism" is a synonym to the word "Assimilation".

In previous generations, the heart was used to work part-time. Jews expressed their Judaism with their entire body. With their eyes they learned Torah. With their spine they stood tall in synagogue. With their mouth they refrained from eating forbidden foods, etc...
The assimilation process concludes with the heart. The last thing an assimilated Jew loses is the feeling that he is his heart.

And so, in the light of the Midrash, the holding of the Four Species together during the blessing in Sukkot is directed to the heart (the Etrog). To teach us that we cannot separate from the other organs symbolized by the other three species we hold in our right hand. And, moreover, to teach us that the "Cardiological Judaism" causes us harm. And that there are other organs whose purpose is to serve us, to help us show our emotions and let us know that not all relies upon the heart.