09012021 – Mark 7. 1-8, 14-15, 21-23


The starting place.  The background.  The context if you will…is a little bit different…maybe even a little strange.

It starts with the Hebrew language.

The wording and the words chosen are always so very important.

The Hebrew word “MUSSAR” means moral conduct, instruction, or discipline.

I do not expect you to remember that word…nor will there any test…on it later…so you can relax…

A whole MUSSAR MOVEMENT actually began a few centuries ago based upon “this one, Hebrew word.”

“THE MUSSAR MOVEMENT” arose in the 1800’s in Lithuania and encompasses “a range of spiritual practices,” focusing on the individual’s personal characteristics, traits, or virtues, which are called middot. 

THE PHRASE “Binat Ha’Lev “ – translates as meaning “an understanding of the heart.”

The word binat comes from the Hebrew root bet-yod-nun meaning “to understand or discern,” and lev means “heart.”

When I think about the HEART in the HEBREW SCRIPTURES my head immediately goes to that story of ol’ King Solomon.

“I have given you a wise and discerning or understanding heart” it says in First Kings.

My head then takes me quickly to that ancient story which recounts a dream of King Solomon.  In that dream or vision, God appears to Solomon and asks Solomon what “gift” he desires.

Solomon WISELY asks for “an UNDERSTANDING heart” in order to judge the people by “distinguishing between good and evil, innocent, and guilty.”

“AN UNDERSTANDING HEART,” that pretty much “sets the HEBRAIC STAGE” for us…and gets us to where we want to go…

The heart UNDERSTANDS…the heart KNOWS…the heart DISCERNS…

So, the background to our text is this:in the Jewish tradition” the heart is the SEAT of ALL emotions.

There is a MIDRASH or (an interpretation) that lists over 60 emotions of the heart.

Among these emotions: “the heart sees, hears, speaks, falls, stands, rejoices, weeps, comforts, and sorrows. . .”

In Judaism, our hearts are the VESSELS of both our FEELINGS and our WISDOM, and the MAIN SOURCE of ALL of our EMOTIONS…

With this background we FAST FORWARD a thousand years…and now we arrive at the teachings and the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.

THE HEART has “long been established” and BELIEVED to be the source of much of what we SAY and DO, and HOW we react.

And yes, I get it, we ARE kind of bypassing the BRAIN here, but this thinking goes back some 3,000 years…

It was THE “common belief” AT THE TIME.

In talking about the heart…Jesus rather quickly makes the leap “FROM THE HEART” or rather “OUT OF THE HEART” comes…all kinds of stuff…

And NOT GOOD STUFF – mind you…

You know, stuff like evil thoughts, sex crimes, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, the old lustful eye, blasphemy, arrogance, and just plain old stupidity.

They do not arise or come out of the thinking of our brain…but rather arise from deep within, from the heart of humankind.

Have a good heart and have a good life.

Have a pure heart and live a pure life.

Have a heart that is open to others, and you will have an openness to all of life.

BUT HARDEN YOUR HEART and you will be stubborn…and closed up…

If you have an understanding heart…you will make the choice TO BE OPEN.

Harden your heart and you will be CLOSED OFF to all kinds of opportunities…

If you harden your heart, you force yourself NOT to feel love, or sympathy, for someone, or something.

It was believed at that time that sinfulness caused a hardened heart…the unwillingness to believe…the unwillingness to accept WHAT IS…the unwillingness to be open.

Be careful what you hold IN YOUR HEART, stuff like grudges and negativity, resentment and bitterness, grievances and displeasure, hard feelings and ill-will, hate and dislike…

If you hold on to anything let be love and openness, peacefulness and tranquility, respect and admiration, kindness and concern, tenderness and unselfishness, warmth, and admiration toward others…

Be careful what you hang on to…the old adage, “garbage in, garbage out” is a word to the wise.

Don’t store or carry around old garbage, it will eat you up inside…