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Wisdom of the Heart

Vayakhel-Pekudei (Exodus 35-40 )

by Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt

In the last few Torah portions, we find Moses requesting those who are "wise of heart" to help build the Tabernacle. In our society, wisdom is usually associated with the mind. Why does Judaism associate it with the heart?

It's quite simple really. A person can be highly intelligent and have brilliant ideas about life - yet not be wise. Ideas are only useful to the extent that you are able to apply them. And you will only apply them to the extent that you feel them. Ideas that don't filter through to the emotions are ultimately of little value.

Someone who "knows" it's wrong to steal - but doesn't "feel" that it's wrong to steal - may well end up stealing. Because usually our actions are in response to our emotions, not our ideas. Of course, the mind must be the progenitor of ideas, but the heart must be the place in which they ultimately reside.

Knowledge for its own sake is antithetical to Judaism. Dry academic study is considered a waste of time and energy. Ideas need to be felt and experienced. They need to become integrated into a person and his life. They need to drive his life forward - not sit in his mind to be brought out now and then as clever party pieces.

Moses didn't want hollow academics to build his Tabernacle - no matter how clever they were. He wanted real people who felt and lived with their ideas - people who were wise, not just knowledgeable. Only with such real wisdom could a Tabernacle be built that would be a testament to God in its every nut and bolt.

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