Lev tahor is Hebrew for a ‘pure heart’. These words were spoken to me recently by a friend and I’ve been thinking about what they mean as part of the essence of worship. As always, God is faithful to answer my prayers. I was immensely blessed when we visited a congregation and the Rabbi who spoke elaborated on these very words.
“Who may go up to the mountain of Adonai? Who can stand in his holy place? Those with clean hands and pure hearts” (Psalm 24:3-4).
Purity of heart is not attained or acquired, it is the purposeful removal or ‘fleeing from’ of all that brings impurity or tumah into the heart (2 Timothy 2:22). In order to have pure gold, the gold must go through the smelting process of heat to remove its impurities. When the gold is pure, it becomes clear and malleable. It is the same with the lev tahor. Throughout the years of our lives, we experience more pain and suffering. Deep hurts and insults, rejection, and the death of loved ones can harden our hearts with impurities like anger, bitterness, slander, and spitefulness. Just like gold, we must go through a process of refining so that our lev (heart) is tahor (pure) and malleable.
King David cried out to Adonai after he sinned with Bat Sheva, “Create in me a lev tahor, O Elohim …” (Psalm 51:10 Orthodox Jewish Bible). The word ‘create’ in this verse is bara, the same word used in Genesis 1:1 for when God ‘created’ the heavens and the earth. It is only through crying out to God with a repentant heart as David did that allows God to ‘create in me a pure heart’ through His refining fire that returns to us the lev tahor that was first created within man in the Garden.
“And as he gazed at the Sanhedrin, Rav Sha’ul [Paul] said, “Brothers, I have lived before God until this day with a lev tahor” (Acts 23:1).
The lev is considered the seat of desire and passion that gives strength to thoughts and ideas while the soul or nephesh is that part of the divine presence alive in each of us. It is through the ‘ears of the soul’ that we hear God’s voice when He speaks to us. It is with the ‘heart’ that we respond to the ‘voice in the soul.’ However, when we have impurities that harden our heart, we may not hear God’s voice as clearly. We may be deceived by the impurities in our heart. This is why God said in Amos 5:21 and Isaiah 1:14 that He hated the very festivals and celebrations He gave to Israel. The hearts of His people were far from Him; they weren’t listening to His voice in their souls; they weren’t celebrating with a lev tahor so their celebrations became a burden to Him. Yeshua spoke the same words about lips that honor him, but hearts that are far away from him.
‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me” (Matthew 15:8).
When we are young, we believe that physical strength will bring us a more purified heart. However, as a man may become physically strong, his heart may stray far from God. Though there is glory in the physical strength of man’s youth, there is a greater glory when man becomes old and his soul has been purified. His heart will follow a passion for God, and what comes out of him in his aged life will reveal the purity of his heart. As we grow older, we should become people of worship and praise through the study of the Scriptures and seeing Yeshua in every word. In these moments, we have a lev tahor that will see God (Mattheew 5:8).
“Having purified your nefashot (souls) by mishma’at (obedience) to the Truth, resulting in ahavah shel achvah (brotherly love) without tzevi’ut (hypocrisy), have fervent ahavah (agape) for one another, from a lev tahor (pure heart)” (1 Peter 1:22 OJB).
Hebrew Word Pictures
Pure Heart – lev tahor
Lamed – A Shepherd’s Staff means ‘urge forward.’
Bet – A House means ‘house’ or family.’
Tet – A Snake means ‘twist.’
Hey – A Window means ‘reveal’ or ‘behold.’
Vav – A Nail means ‘binding.’
Resh – A Head means ‘highest authority.’
The Hebrew Word Picture for lev tahor: urge forward the house twisting, reveal the binding of highest authority.
©2016 Burt Yellin with Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved. No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.