Serving Hashem through Emotion or Intellect


Question: How should one serve Hashem through emotion or intellect?

Answer: It is written on almost every page of the book "Mesillat Yesharim" that one must serve Hashem through intellect.  A person is obligated to be good and to distance himself from evil.  How can a person improve himself?  Answer: through intellect.  The intellect is the main power of a person.  The fact that you have emotions does not make you a man.  Animals also possess emotion.   Apes, for example, have an incrediblely strong motherly emotion, to the point of self-sacrifice.  They hold their babies for five years even when they are gathering food or fighting off an enemy.  Like us, animals have emotions, a body, desires, imaginations, etc.  The Rambam therefore writes in "Shemoneh Perakim" (chapter 1) that the intellect must reign over all of these powers.  The intellect is the king.  Not a ruler who murders all of his citizens so he can reign all by himself, but one who takes care of them.  Rabbi Yehudah Halevi also wrote this in the book "Ha-Kuzari" (in the third section) when he discussed the righteous person, one who is similar to a king who provides for the needs of his citizens.  When he asks them to rally around the flag, they come running.  The same applies to the intellect which gives each human being his status and role.  The intellect examines if a given emotion is positive or negative.  If you are excited about our state and army, this is a good emotion.  But being excited by some actor – what kind of emotion is this?!  A person certainly needs to be excited – if he does not he is not human – but the question is what is he excited about.  How can we know which emotion has deep meaning and which does not?  This is the job of the intellect.  We learn Torah and know what is right and wrong.  To our distress, it is true that emotion and imagination control most people of the world, but we are not discussing what exists, but what should exist.  What should exist is the intellect as the main power.  The intellect is the company commander which gives the orders.  Emotion began ruling the world with the sin of Adam.  Hashem said: do not eat from this tree.  "But it is beautiful…" and so he ate from the tree.  From that time, man has not been directly controlled by his intellect, but has been enslaved to emotions and imagination.  But Hashem had mercy on us and gave us the Torah which teaches us what is good and evil, what is a mitzvah and what is a transgression, what is a law and what is a stringency, etc.  We therefore know how to act in the world, and we can examine an emotion through the intellect.  For example, "I hate you" – the Torah says "Do not hate people."  "I am jealous" – the Torah says "Do not be jealous."  "But I have a powerful emotion" – the Torah says "Do not be jealous of another person."  The Torah clarifies for us prohibited emotions which must be eliminated, permissible emotions which can remain, and supreme emotions which should be strengthened.