A Hasidic tale is told by philosopher Jacob Needleman about a Rabbi and his disciple discussing Deuteronomy 6:6 (see below):
A disciple asks the Rabbi: “Why does Torah tell us to ‘place these words upon your hearts? Why does it not tell us to place the holy words in our hearts?”
The Rabbi answers: “It is because as we are, our hearts are closed, and we cannot place the holy words in our hearts. So we place them on top of our hearts. And there they stay until, one day, the heart breaks and the words fall in.”
Recorded in Parker Palmer’s “On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity & Getting Old.”
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.
It is a humbling reminder that even when, or especially when our hearts are closed to God’s word, placing His word “on” our hearts sets the stage for when our heart finally breaks so the words can fall in.
It also speaks to the notion that God’s Holy Word can only enter into a broken heart – that our brokenness approaches the wonder of His holiness in ways that our [self] righteousness never could.
As a mere novice student of the Scriptures these many years, I have experienced the mystery of how God brings His word to mind from a heart on which His word had rested dormant until the right time.
What is your experience of God’s word on your heart?