I can understand if the Torah commands one to wear tefilin or put on a mezuza.

But to command a person not to hate anyone, not to covet anything of anyone, not to bear a grudge, love your fellow as yourself, how can the Torah command a person how to feel to such a drastic extent?

It seems that it is almost impossible for a person to control his emotions to such a drastic extent (i.e. to never hate, never be jealous, always love everyone).

After all, such people are almost nonexistent except for some very very great Torah scholars and big tzadikim. But most of us can't be expected to reach their level.

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    Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/15911/5
    – Seth J
    Feb 12 '13 at 21:27
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    @R.Sebag, Go look up where the Mitzvot you're talking about are listed, either in the Torah or in later Halachic sources, see where in those sources specific emotions are mandated, and to what extent, then put your research into the question to back up its assumptions. Unless you do that, your question is not about the Torah but about some vaguely-stated impressions of the Torah which are too vague to even tell if they're correct, much less explain why.
    – Isaac Moses
    Feb 12 '13 at 21:43
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    @R.Sebag It actually says "don't hate in your heart" which excludes hate that you show. That's an action not an emotion. Your incomplete and imprecise citations demonstrate the current low quality of this question.
    – Double AA
    Feb 12 '13 at 21:43
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    @R.Sebag, why guess/argue? Look it up, and put it in the question.
    – Isaac Moses
    Feb 12 '13 at 21:57
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    While the answers to Seth's question are more suited to your question, at this point I would rather see Seth's question improved to include some aspects of your thoughts, rather than work to improve your question. Apr 11 '13 at 18:20

We are commanded to love Hashem with all our heart, all our soul and all our might. (First paragraph of the Shma.) Clearly, we need to serve Hashem with all parts of ourselves -- our bodies, our minds, and our emotions.

It is not easy to change our emotions, just as it not easy to refrain from sins. But the ideal is that our head rules over our heart. We have to try.

Let's say I keep getting angry although I know I should not get angry ("Let my soul be silent to those who curse me..." from the post-Amidah prayer). Orchot Tzaddikim says if I have an angry temperment, I should adopt the opposite mentality, never raising our voice and such even when it may be appropriate, until I have accustomed myself to avoiding anger. To be honest, I am trying to implement this in my own life!

Another example: let's say you know it is a commandment to love Hashem (one of the six constant mitzvot.) Then take a few minutes to meditate on G-d's greatness, as recommended in Chabad chassidut, which says that this will lead to a fiery love of G-d.

Similarly, with forgiveness, this is not easy but it is not all or nothing, and with effort we can achieve at least partial forgiveness. See this essay on the Lubavitcher Rebbe's discussion of different levels of forgiveness.


If we have difficulty achieving these things, we have to keep trying, and as Rebbe Nachman explains, we should pray in our own words, because prayer always helps (see Likutei Eitzot, Hitbodedut, Tefilah). Both chassidic and mussar literature contains numerous suggestions on controlling our emotions and cultivating positive emotions such as love and fear of G-d.

  • if I understand correctly, you are saying it is just an ideal/goal. correct?
    – ray
    Feb 12 '13 at 21:42
  • Well, when it comes to mitzvot that obligate a particular feeling or avoiding a particular feeling we are obligated to do the best we can to achieve that. As to the more middot-related Torah sources about anger, equanimity, and the like, I think we are also obligated to do our best to achieve what the Torah says is ideal, even if it is not technically subsumed under a particular mitzvah.
    – Kordovero
    Feb 12 '13 at 21:48
  • Some rationalists think that the entire purpose of the mitzvot is to improve our character traits (many of which relate to emotions) (see R' Slifkin's definition of rationalism). Somewhat similarly, some mystics believe the purpose of all the mitzvot is to raise us to a higher level of divine awareness (I think they use the term da'at), which means that we are always happy because we know everything comes from Hashem, and we are always kind to others because we know we are all one and we feel compassion them (see the Tree that Stands Beyond Space by R' Dovid Sears, and Likutey Moharan I, 119).
    – Kordovero
    Feb 12 '13 at 21:52
  • Right. And although a one's emotions are not directly under his control (see Vayishlach Yehoshua 5736) one can come to control them through the mind (moach shalit al halev) and through controlling one's "garments of the soul" (i.e., thought, speech, and action). Feb 17 '13 at 18:35

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