Parshat Eikev by: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron                                                           בס"ד

לשכנו תדרשו

Discover the Holy Presence in the Holy Land

Tefilin and the Two Hemispheres of the Brain

A deep groove called the longitudinal fissure separates the brain into its two hemispheres (halves). Popular articles on psychology often say that each side of the brain does things that the other does not. For example, a common mistake is the idea that the left side of the brain does all of a person’s “logical thinking” (like solving math problems), while the right brain does all the “creative thinking” (like painting or drawing). The truth is that both hemispheres work together on both logical and creative thinking. However, even though the two hemispheres work together, there is some hemispheric specialization. Usually, the right side of the brain dominates the functions to do with creativity, spatial awareness, appreciation of music, etc. whereas the left side of the brain dominates analytical, language-based, and logical functions.

In tefillin, which are mentioned in this Parsha, the “right” side of the tefillin, i.e where the first parchment containing the “Kadesh” section is placed, is found on the right side of the external observer observing the person wearing the tefillin, this being on the “left” hemisphere from the vantage point of scientific anatomy. This is the case according to halacha and to the Kabbalistic viewpoint, although there are opinions of the Rishonim that the opposite is the case. According to the accepted halachic/kabbalistic viewpoint, it follows that the “right” brain, from the side of the observer, is actually the opposite of the scientific configuration, i.e the “left” scientific brain. This matter is important, kabbalistically speaking, since the “right-brain”, according to the Kabbalah, is associated with the sefira of Hochma, while the “left brain” is associated with the sefira of “Bina.”
Hochma is associated with more abstract thought, while Bina is associated with more “concretized” thought. If we associate Hochma with the “left brain” in science, as explained above, we indeed see a remarkable resemblance between the two. Both are involved with the abstract, the analytical, the mathematical, and the logical. Also, language may be perceived as the abstract definition of matters through words, versus the “hands-on” approach dominant in the “right-brain” in science. The “right brain” in science, which we associated with Bina, is more associated with the concretized level/the worldly level, and therefore it is more involved with spatial/”worldly” awareness. Music is also associated with Bina, since the Levites, the singers and “musicians” of the Beit Hamikdash, are associated with Bina [the “left” kabbalistic side]. Bina is also associated with the World of Creation according to the Kabbalah, and this may also explain why the “right-brain” in science is more dominant in creativity, i.e bringing the abstract to a manifest and concretized form of creation.

All these ideas also illuminate our understanding of the tefillin being “between the eyes,” i.e exactly in the middle of the forehead, signifying a balance and unity of these two hemispheres. Hebron, which means unity, also teaches us how to bring about unity among our People by “tying” us to our common roots of “four”, just like the tefillin “ties” us to the four parchments contained within it. Last week we discussed the four lobes of the brain, and this week we discussed the two hemispheres of the brain, together describing “four couples,” i.e the Hochma and Bina “coupled” together, as in the “four couples” of Maarat Hamachpela. On Tu Be’Av this week, the day auspicious for “uniting couples”, and the days adjacent to it, let us take inspiration from Hebron and the tefillin to unite our people, unite couples, and bring peace and unity among all of us, transcending all distances.

Real Miracles: Independence War:

Three times the Israelis tried attacking at a point called Latrun, but were unsuccessful. The road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv remained cut. Jerusalem would have succumbed to siege if not for the discovery of an ancient Roman road that turned south of the city and then turned west until it turned north. A great deal of this road was constructed by religious Jews from Meah Shearim in the dead of night to avoid Arab snipers. The final road was bumpy and laden with holes, but it was a road. It enabled trucks to come into Jerusalem and effectively break the siege.

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