On this Sabbath – in congregations all over the world – we read that – Moses addresses the community with the following words:
Circumcise the foreskin of your heart – and stiffen your necks no more. (Deut. 10:16)
This image of a circumcised heart is echoed again by the Prophet Jeremiah, who (when addressing the corruption of his times and the absence of morality throughout the society in which he lived) uses very similar words. Jeremiah tells the people of his day to:
Circumcise your hearts to the Lord. Cut away the thickening about your hearts … lest [God’s] anger break forth like fire and burn, with none to quench it, because of your wicked acts. (Jeremiah 4:1-4)
In each of these passages, Moses and Jeremiah are clearly calling for the people to change their ways, but what exactly does this reference to a circumcised heart mean?
One clue might be gleaned from the idea that the ancient societies understood the heart to be the organ of comprehension. In contrast to our modern notion that the heart is the seat of emotions – our ancestors understood the heart to be the seat of wisdom and thought. Therefore, an uncircumcised heart might better be translated as a “closed mind” or “close-mindedness.”
In light of this understanding, the call of our prophets to “circumcise the foreskin of our hearts” is as important to us today as it ever was in the past. As we strive to heed this ancient call, we need to make a concerted effort to listen to each other more, open our minds and be unified toward goodness, truth and righteousness.