To humans belong the plans of the heart,
but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue.
All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
but motives are weighed by the LORD.
Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans. — Proverbs 16:1–3
Life is full of decisions. Sometimes the answer is obvious, but other times, the answer simply eludes us.
A story is told about former President Ronald Reagan when he was young and had to make up his mind. His aunt had taken him to a shoe cobbler to buy a new pair of shoes, but when the cobbler asked young Ronald whether he would like round toes or square toes, the young man couldn’t decide. The cobbler gave Reagan a few days to think about it. Several days passed and the cobbler spotted Reagan on the street. The cobbler demanded a decision. Reagan still couldn’t make up his mind, so the cobbler told him to come by in few days and the shoes would be ready.
When the young Reagan stopped by to pick up his shoes later that week, he was surprised to see that the cobbler had created one round-toed shoe and one square-toed shoe. The cobbler told the future President: “This will teach you to never let people make decisions for you." Reagan later stated, “I learned right then and there that if you don't make your own decisions, someone else will."
There was a time when, according to Jewish tradition, one could go to a prophet to get perfect guidance when making a decision. With no prophets around, there were still individuals who had access to ruach hakodesh, the Holy Spirit, and those people could give others exact guidance on decision-making. Later, there were pious rabbis who were able to counsel their followers accurately about which decisions to make.
However today, we are often alone in deciding what to do. Sometimes, there is a lot riding on our decisions. Even advice from respected individuals is no guarantee that we are choosing correctly. So how are we to know which decisions to make?
Proverbs gives us an answer. We read: “To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue . . . Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” The Jewish sages explain that when we direct our hearts to make the decision that God wants, we will be worthy of receiving the proper answer. When we are committed to doing God’s will, we will be pointed in the right direction.
Let us remember this wise advice the next time we have to make a decision. God can send us the clarity we are looking for when we are clear on for what – and for Whom – we are working.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President