The Living Torah is a weekly publication distributed in and around North West London. Written by members of Hasmonean High School's Sixth Form programme - we aim to bring you divrei torah for your Shabbat table each and everyweek.

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Thursday, 11 March 2010

Those Wise in Heart

“Let all those with a wise heart among you come and make everything that Hashem commanded” (35:10)

This week the words ‘Chacham Lev’ are repeated seven times and the root of Chacham appears eleven times. Chachma is generally translated as wisdom. The meaning of the phrase wise-hearted needs further clarification.

Two approaches to Chachma:

The Ramban comments that at first none of Bnei Yisrael were aware that they had the skills necessary to carry out the Divine will but through their devotion to Hashem they discovered that they had the skills required within in them. Emotional factors do not allow a person to accept something about himself whether it be good or bad no matter how many times he is told it and regardless if it is explained to him in detail. Our emotions can cloud our minds meaning that no intellectual information will register.

We usually think of wisdom as associated with the mind and brain rather than with the heart. We also usually associate the heart with our emotions rather than with wisdom. The phrase of Chacham Lev seems to be telling us of the importance that we should attach to our emotions and that we must understand ourselves and our emotional responses to any situation. According to R’Hirsch understanding and insight are subcategories of Chachma – wisdom. Our emotions and our intellect are very closely related; lack of one has an adverse effect on the other.

It is possible to think that this character of Chacham Lev is only relevant to this week’s Parasha (It only appears five times in the Torah – all in our Parasha). The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim (3:54) notes that is specifically linked to the art of construction. However the phrase and its inner meaning seems to include a broader category than simply the ability to make things. In other places around the Tanach, the phrase is related to the observance of Mitzvot:

“One whose heart is wise will do the Mitzvot, but a fool will have tired lips.” (Mishlei 10:8)

Indeed the Malbim comments that ‘Chacham Lev’ refers to someone who has integrated the moral discipline that wisdom imposes with his natural instincts and passions.

Alternatively, Rabbi Yehuda Halevi says that we describe Hashem as ‘wise in the heart’, not because intelligence is a description of Hashem rather because it is intellect that is our essence and Hashem is the very ultimate of intellect, the very epitome of Chacham Lev – Where there is complete unity between ‘wisdom’ and the one who possess it. It is a natural characteristic of Hashem; a human being can achieve the same objective if he yearns for Hashem and attempts to be an instrument for the establishment of Hashem’s kingdom in our world. Much like Betzalel was.

The Pasuk describe Betzalel as having/using wisdom, insight and understanding. R’Hirsch says that he was appointed specifically because he had these qualities. The building of the Mishkan was not merely the external work of artisanship but a way to establish a structure where there are no spare parts, where each part has a symbolic significance.

So in summary, it is likely that Chacham Lev is the wisdom needed to build the Mishkan, wisdom that can translate a Divine plan into human reality, something that will form a bridge between our emotions and our intellect and between us and Hashem. The Mishkan is the centre of vitality of Am Yisrael. It a spiritual and emotional centre, the source of all the teachings of Bnei Yisrael, intellectual or otherwise.

What is needed to construct such a centre is wisdom combined with a heart, someone who is truly Chacham Lev. Only this can bring together the highest point of the Jewish soul and its strong yearning for Hashem. This is wisdom that results from the link between man and Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom,

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