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Emotional intelligence or intelligent emotions?

The human psyche consists of two fundamental functions: emotion and intellect. These two aspects are employed daily to guide our behavior and decision-making. Emotions define our needs and aspirations, while intellect aids us in making choices that lead us towards our goals. Biologically speaking, they correspond to the heart and the mind, with the heart representing emotions and the mind representing intellect.


Although emotion and intellect are distinct traits, a well-functioning individual integrates both components to achieve optimal results. However, it is rare to find someone with a perfect balance between intellect and emotions. Some individuals lean towards being more emotional, while others lean towards being more intellectual. Achieving a harmonious fusion of the two becomes a lifelong challenge. Intellectual individuals need to develop the capacity to incorporate emotions in their decision-making process, thinking beyond conventional boundaries. On the other hand, emotionally-driven individuals should acknowledge the advantages of being calculated and thoughtful.


There is no clear advantage of one over the other. While intelligence may appear superior, without the tempering influence of emotions, it can lead to dire consequences. Similarly, emotions, when left unguided by rationality, can become uncontrollable.


From a spiritual standpoint, both emotion and intellect play an equal role in the relationship between man and G-d. This is exemplified by a seemingly minor dispute in the Talmud regarding the positioning of the menorah in the Temple, whether it ran the width (north-south) or the length (east-west) of the Temple.


The Temple’s menorah represents a Jew’s spiritual connection to G-d, with its seven branches symbolizing different attributes of divine service. Thus, in the context of the menorah, the rabbis of the Talmud also debated whether intellectual connection through Torah study or emotional connection through love and awe for G-d was more central to our relationship with the divine.


The Holy of Holies, housing the ark of the covenant, was the holiest section of the Temple, located in the westernmost edge. Accordingly, objects closer to the west were considered greater. The north-south opinion suggests that all branches of the menorah were on an equal level in relation to the Holy of Holies, while the east-west opinion implies that the western-most branch was superior.


The north-south opinion highlights the importance of Torah study and intellectual connection with G-d. From this perspective, all Jews are equal in their ability to study Torah, even though individuals may have varying levels of understanding. Serving G-d intellectually places all Jews on an equal footing.


On the other hand, the east-west opinion emphasizes the emotional connection to G-d, recognizing that individuals have different emotional experiences. While everyone aims to love and fear G-d, the ways in which they express these emotions may differ. The person represented by a candle on the east might have a lesser emotional connection compared to the person on the west. Nevertheless, all Jews are part of the same menorah, united as one.


In general, all opinions quoted in the Talmud are considered valid and can be applied under different circumstances. Although the final halachic ruling states that the menorah ran north to south, prioritizing our intellectual connection, both opinions hold spiritual significance. Therefore, the lesson we should take is the importance of utilizing both our intellectual and emotional faculties in our ongoing pursuit to connect with the divine.


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