The Mind Rules over the Heart... or Does It?
  Breaking Free Chizuk #1813  
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Torah: The Mind Rules over the Heart... or Does It?
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The Mind Rules over the Heart... or Does It?


I have a question for Rabbi Twerski or any Chabad rabbi who is on the GYE board. How do the 12-steps go with the concept of “moach shalit al halev” (“Mind rules over the heart”)?

GYE Responds:

Good question.

Let's take the example of someone who has Diabetes. For years, he tried to fight his sugar imbalances by thinking positive thoughts and by meditating, but it didn't help. Then he was finally diagnosed as diabetic and was told he had to take insulin, eat healthy, and do daily exercises. Instead of using his mind to try and think away his diabetes, he needs to use his mind now to simply take the steps the doctor told him to do.

It is the same with the 12-Steps. For years, we tried to use our "moach shalit al halev" to control our acting-out, but it never worked. Then we found out we were addicts and we had a disease. We were different from other people. With this revelation, we discovered the 12-Step program, which tells us how to use our "moach" to take steps that we know to work for addiction. Instead of trying to fight the behaviors head-on, we learn instead how to let Hashem into our lives through honesty, integrity, humility, group-support, bitachon, emunah, etc... Now our moach needs to be shalit on the lev to get us to take these steps, but no longer to try and fight the behaviors head-on.

Does this make sense?

Obormottel offers a further clarification:

“Moach shalit al halev” (mind rules over heart) is an oft misquoted and misunderstood concept of Tanya. The actual quote from Tanya (perek 17) reads: “The mind, by virtue of its inherent nature, is master over the left part of the heart, and over the mouth and all the limbs which are the instruments of action...” But this is an incomplete sentence. The full quote from Tanya continues: “…except in him who is completely wicked (rasha b’emes), as the Rabbis said, that the wicked are under the control of their heart (reshoyim b’reshus libom), but their heart is in no way controlled by them. This is a punishment for the enormity and potency of their sin.”

Often times, people hear the “moach shalit al halev” and figure that Tanya is saying a universal rule that applies to everyone: that a person can always think his way out of the situation he finds himself in. Nothing can be further from the truth, and it’s not what the Tanya is saying at all. Whether you consider addiction a disease (as is explained above with the example of diabetes) or sin (and, arguably, repeated and relentless involvement with an aveira/sin makes one into a rasha, a wicked person), addicts are clearly powerless over it, and the Tanya does not suggest otherwise by making a blanket statement that “moach shalit al halev.”

And even if someone is not “completely wicked” (rasha b’emes), he may still find himself to be unable to completely free himself from the obsessions of his heart. As the Tanya says further, in perek 28, with regards to beinoni, “However, if he finds it hard to dismiss these [lustful imaginations or other extraneous thoughts] from his mind, because they distract his mind with great intensity, then he should humble his spirit before G‑d and supplicate Him in his thought to have compassion upon him in His abundant mercies." This is the admission of powerlessness (step 1 of 12) and believing that only “Power Greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity” (step 2 of 12), i.e. to restore the natural shlita (domination) of mind over heart.


by Rabbi Yakov HorowitzDr. Benzion Twerski 

Abuse Survivors, Please Do Not Suffer Alone
Daily Dose of Dov
To the Point of Survival
By Dov

Hashem does not tell me anywhere in the Torah not to be an addict! Yes, He does tell me not to look at shmutz, mz"l, stare at women, etc. But my addiction is not the aveiro itself.

My addiction - the only thing I actually need to be free of today - is the predictable attachment I have to lust, and is expressed in an obsessive, searching hunger for shmutz and fantasy, relations and hz"l, and other closely related behaviors.

The fact that I do these aveiros, is not my motivation for stopping, and may never be. It never worked before - why would I believe that it'd work now - even after ten or more years sober?

Rather, the only motive that was actually successful at 'getting me' to stop and seek the help I really needed was that I admitted that my obsession was actually making my life impossible. Till then, I would always have - and would always c ontinue to have - excuses to continue my aveiros and obsession. Excuses like:

1- It's too strong for me, so it's got to be OK, somehow;

2- I am so upset I am not married yet, so I'd better do this than a, b, or c with x, y, or z;

3- She/He/they/G-d treats me so incredibly poorly that I deserve a little relief;

4- I am absolutely sure that this is the only way I could possibly ever be and remain happy. Doesn't Hashem, who loves me so much, want me to be happy?

5- I'll quit tomorrow/next month/by the time I am 50;

6- I'll start doing the aveiros less often and that proves I am better....etc,

I cannot rely on the Torah to save me. I need to rely on my own values. If I need to come to the point that survival is in question, it will not be pretty, but for many of us (maybe not all), that is just what is required.

Do you think you may have a porn addiction?

Do you have a problem with obsessive and compulsive porn use? Have you seriously tried the tools on GYE and feel that you are not getting better? Maybe it’s time to consider joining a 12-Step program.

Porn Anonymous (PA)
If you’re compulsively acting-out with pornography and masturbation we suggest you explore joining Porn Anonymous (PA). If you need help deciding whether to join PA, call Michael at 347-699-2368, or email to schedule a time to talk. For more information visit (Hebrew: / Yiddish:

Sexaholics Anonymous (SA)
If your compulsive acting-out has progressed beyond the screen (with other people, paid sexual services, etc.) we suggest you explore joining Sexaholics Anonymous (SA). To figure out if SA is for you, call Dov at 917-414-8205, or email Dov at to schedule a time to talk. For more information visit

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