Before I ask my question I would like to present a couple of teachings from the chabad website which have to do with my question:

Looking at the sefirot there is this general accepted twofold excisting of Sechel (intellectual powers) and Middot (emotive powers).

The initials of the words for "brain" [in Hebrew, "moach"], "heart" [in Hebrew, "lev"], and "liver" [in Hebrew, "kaved"] make up Melech: A person whose consciousness descends from his brain to his heart and then to his liver, i.e., whose intellect rules his emotions, which in turn determine the way he acts, is a "king", i.e., in charge of himself and his body.

The seat of the Neshama is in the head, i.e., the brain; the seat of the Ruach is in the heart; and the seat of the Nefesh is in the liver.


If one look at the Yetzer (hara) which is in or from the heart, and one takes the heart as the Seat of emotions and thought, it seems that a Yetzer is the force or drive behind these thoughts and emotions... or at least influence these in some way, this is my first thought about it.

I became to wonder if the Yetzer, because it's with the heart could be beaten by intellect. But the Tenach never talks about the brain (Moach; nor the Neshamah) but rather about the body and inner man in terms of soul and heart etc. Still there's this teaching about placing our Moach first.. pure intellect above the emotions (and subjective).. how does the Yetzarim fit into this all, and can we overcome our Yetzer hara by pure intellect (through our mind?)

How do these different teachings complement each other?

  • many teachings say the heart is the king not the intellect. what a person wants determines what he allows himself to see with his intellect
    – ray
    Nov 7, 2016 at 17:43
  • This seems to make quite a few assumption, could you clarify where on the Chabad website these are stated (or provide links)?
    – mevaqesh
    Nov 7, 2016 at 19:12
  • @mevaqesh I posted a couple of teachings and with or without any assumption of my own these teachings keep existing and the question remains: they could contradict or compliment each other: and wether and where in all these teachings, seperate or combined, the concepts of the yetzarim fit in. One side talks primarely of the brain ruling and stearing and battleling with the heart, while the other side of the story tells about a battle within the heart itself.
    – Levi
    Nov 8, 2016 at 7:50
  • @Levi Without sourcing one's assumptions, a question remains...But not necessarily a very good one. Providing your sources for information allows users to more easily investigate the source texts, and avoid wasting time.
    – mevaqesh
    Nov 8, 2016 at 15:22

1 Answer 1


Regarding intellect

That in the Tenach we do see regarding intellect the word shma in shma Yesroel means to understand, the word "heart" in the Tenach is not excluding the brain, it is all of the inner man (there is a interesting intellectual book called "the duties of the heart", it is a logical book regarding the duties of the brain)

The point that intellect rules over the heart is not that you can control yourself,
(you can control yourself in thought speach and deed anyway, if G-d blessed be he made something forbidden he gave you the power to control yourself (in a case of rape (when you can not control yourself) it is not forbidden))).
The point is that the (subconscious) emotions are not wild, they do things which from their point of view is good for you, what intellect rules means is that if you think, understand and decided that someone is good for you this will effect your emotions, and your yezer (a lot of psychological disorders are caused by environmental factors, mainly that a behavior was/is beneficial to the person so he continues doing it, if the person himself wants to he can change it by understanding that other behaviors are better for him),

Please clarify the rest of your question in the comments below

  • 's Akrasia is 'lacking command over oneself', the state of acting against one's better judgement, not doing what one genuinely wants to do, it encompasses procrastnation, lack of self-control, lack of follow-through, and any kind of addictive behavior. An akratic person goes against reason as a result of some pathos (emotion, feeling). There must be a reason why one goes against his own will, like in Jewish thoughts one must have a reason to go against his will to follow the mitzvot..
    – Levi
    Nov 8, 2016 at 13:14
  • @Levi a jew has 2 wills, which at times are opposing. the emotion "to get upset" is maybe at the time against reason, but the emotion itself came from reason (the person used it before, (or he thought about it and decided) and it was good for him at least in the short term)
    – hazoriz
    Nov 8, 2016 at 13:20
  • ...one of these things seems to be the Yetzer Hara, which is needed for free will, but also influence this will (which transforms in to certain actions). Looking at this Yetzer Hara (inclination, urge, instinct, tendency, impulse, propensity, drift, intuition etc.) it seemed this was causing 'a lack' in command over someone (indirectly, for one always has a choice) so that this person would fail to do what's good, to follow his will or to make his will follow the Will of HaShem. To me it seems that the Yetzer isn't bad, but it can mislead us so that it becomes bad.
    – Levi
    Nov 8, 2016 at 13:31
  • I would like to ask you one follow-up question: all forms of יצר , צור and צר according to the Hirsch dictionary and doitinhebrew.com dictionary seems to have to do with 'forming' of some kind. Only yetzer and yitzri (יצרי) are translated as inclination and instinct. How do these 'strenghts' you talk about (these tendencies, propensities, inclinations, impulses, urges, preilections, predispositions, drifts, biases.. or whatever it is exactly), refer to forming?
    – Levi
    Nov 8, 2016 at 13:36
  • What is it they form? For good or bad.. Just thinking it seems that these yetzarim form thoughts, emotions, feelings etc, which lead to deeds and actions (of) which (the outcomes) are good (Tov) or wrong (Rah). Is this correct?
    – Levi
    Nov 8, 2016 at 13:37

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