Eikev - Removing the Barriers

You shall remove the foreskin of your heart, therefore, and be no more stiffnecked.
וּמַלְתֶּם אֵת עָרְלַת לְבַבְכֶם וְעָרְפְּכֶם לֹא תַקְשׁוּ עוֹד
Devarim 10:16
What does the phrase "foreskin of your heart" mean? Rashi says that "the foreskin of your heart (עָרְלַת לְבַבְכֶם) is the blockage and covering of your heart." Why does Rashi have to use two terms to describe this phrase means? Why is not one of these words not enough?

Breaking through the Blockage
The Slonimer Rebbe explains in the Netivot Shalom from a teaching of the Baal Shem Tove. When the heart is blocked, critical holy messages and rebuke can still get through. Rebuke, ethics and holy words bombard the heart, and something can slip through. All it takes is a small, tiny crack to let in just a touch of holiness and that can help turn the heart. This can be the one small step to turn you back on the road  to Tshuvah.

However when in addition to being blocked, the heart is covered, then the heart is untouchable. Nothing can get through these two obstacles.

This state is where the Yetzer Harah stands as the key to heart, preventing anything from getting into the heart and touching the soul.

The Rebbe likens this to a parable. In a kingdom where the king's main gatekeepers are robbers and bandits, and guests come to be present before the king. Is it really possible these gatekeepers will give the outsiders free access to their king. So also is the matter of the sealed heart.

Heavenly Voice Never Heard
Furthermore, we learn in Pirkei Avot that “Every single day a Bat Kol (heavenly voice) emanates from Mount Horev, proclaiming and saying,  ‘Woe to them, to the people, because of  [their] insult to Torah’” (Pirke Avos Chapter 6:2).

The the Baal Shem Tov asks, why don't we ever hear this voice, and if this voice is never heard, then why does it continue to go out every single day?

Explains the Slonimer Rebbe, this Bat Kol isn't just an audio message to hear, but it is another aspect of holiness being injected into this world, to awaken the heart of Yisrael. This seemingly subliminal holiness is not simply meant to be heard, but be absorbed. A Jew is meant to grab hold of this holiness and use it to rise up higher.

And in contrast to this holy power, comes the blockage to the heart, that the powers of the 'Sitra Achra' (the other side) grow stronger and do not rest in the face of the holy powers, keeping out the sound of the Bat Kol.

This is the meaning of the "the foreskin of your heart (עָרְלַת לְבַבְכֶם) is the blockage and covering of your heart." For blockage alone is not so bad, as long as you can still hear the words of Hashem. Still worse, is the covered and locked heart that nothing can penetrate, and receives nothing.

Removing the Foreskin
So how can we respond to Moshe's injunction and remove the 'foreskin' from the heart. In another aspect of life the literal foreskin is an element that prevents one from fully realizing the full Jewish self. It blocks the newborn soul from ultimately being connected to the Jewish people and our destiny. That is inherent in the mitzvah of Brit Milah, to cut off the foreskin, spilling blood in the process.

So also to remove the 'foreskin of the heart'  - the barrier - from the heart, blood must be spilled! What is this 'blood'? What is the comparable experience for dealing with the closed heart?

Mesirat nefesh! Personal sacrifice! That means that we need to push ourselves harder to add more learning, get up earlier if necessary for tefillah, take more opportunities to do Mitzvot. This is the path to remove the barriers that cloud our hearts, and will ultimately allow us to be closer to Hakodesh Baruch Hu.

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