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גרעין קהילתי וקריית חינוך ע"ש מאיר והראל הינה עמותה שמפעילה תוכניות ופרויקטים בתחומי ישיבה, קהילה, זהות יהודית חברה, צבא ורפואה

Wisdom to do good or evil

The Parasha in our everyday life - Vayakhel- Shkalim 5782

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - Rosh Yeshivat Hesder 'Meir Harel' Modi'in

I asked a senior media person about the phenomenon of repetitive, embracing and caressing media interviews, with certain characters to whom morally dubious behavior is attributed. And his answer: 'I will tell you what is the profile of a successful interviewee: people who know how to tell an interesting story (even if it is 'yellow'), smart and witty people with good expressiveness, who look good through the screen'. But is there no room for distinguishing between people who are a positive role model and those who are not, and between the wise who do good and the wise who do evil?!

From the dawn of mankind man has valued wisdom and wit, and honored wise men. Man sought the secret power and advantage of wisdom over all other human qualities. It turns out that the Sage instills confidence in those around him, he 'can be trusted', especially when it comes to leaders, 'because they are smart and know what they are doing'. Even King Solomon, when asked by G-d what he would like to be given, asked for wisdom:

וְנָתַתָּ֨ לְעַבְדְּךָ֜ לֵ֤ב שֹׁמֵ֙עַ֙ לִשְׁפֹּ֣ט אֶֽת־עַמְּךָ֔ לְהָבִ֖ין בֵּֽין־ט֣וֹב לְרָ֑ע

"Grant, then, Your servant an understanding mind to judge Your people, to distinguish between good and bad…." (I Kings 3:9)

And G-d blesses him for this choice with an outstanding blessing, that his wisdom may be the greatest of all men:

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֱלֹקים אֵלָ֗יו יַעַן֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר שָׁאַ֜לְתָּ אֶת־הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֗ה וְלֹֽא־שָׁאַ֨לְתָּ לְּךָ֜ יָמִ֣ים רַבִּ֗ים וְלֹֽא־שָׁאַ֤לְתָּ לְּךָ֙ עֹ֔שֶׁר וְלֹ֥א שָׁאַ֖לְתָּ נֶ֣פֶשׁ אֹיְבֶ֑יךָ וְשָׁאַ֧לְתָּ לְּךָ֛ הָבִ֖ין לִשְׁמֹ֥עַ מִשְׁפָּֽט׃ הִנֵּ֥ה עָשִׂ֖יתִי כִּדְבָרֶ֑יךָ הִנֵּ֣ה נָתַ֣תִּי לְךָ֗ לֵ֚ב חָכָ֣ם וְנָב֔וֹן אֲשֶׁ֤ר כָּמ֙וֹךָ֙ לֹא־הָיָ֣ה לְפָנֶ֔יךָ וְאַחֲרֶ֖יךָ לֹא־יָק֥וּם כָּמֽוֹךָ׃

"And G-d said to him, “Because you asked for this—you did not ask for long life, you did not ask for riches, you did not ask for the life of your enemies, but you asked for discernment in dispensing justice—

I now do as you have spoken. I grant you a wise and discerning mind; there has never been anyone like you before, nor will anyone like you arise again". (Ibid 11-12)

Is wisdom or intelligence an innate and divine attribute (and even to some extent hereditary) and should not be associated to the moral world, or is it up to a certain point, also a skill acquired as a result of learning and developing knowledge, and therefore should be morally examined? The results in light of the investment and effort?!

In recent decades, the term intelligence has often been used to indicate a person's wisdom, even criteria and tests have been established to rate it ('IQ', IQ tests), using them to try to predict people's suitability for different types of roles and professions. In the last century, however, it was noticed that there are several different types of wisdom and intelligence, and that high intellectual intelligence does not guarantee high level of emotional intelligence, or social intelligence (Howard Gardner’s Theory of multiple intelligences -Eight intelligences). There is a difference between wisdom of thought and understanding and wisdom in actions and creativity. Certainly, it is not a guarantee that it will be intelligence to do good and not to do evil. The finest intelligence is the one that contains all kinds.

Human history knows how to point out people who with their wisdom have greatly benefited humanity, and on the other hand those who have used their wisdom and deceit for evil, to exploit others for their own benefit, deceive them, and more. We are commanded to remember the terrible Holocaust of our people by the Germans, and to remember as well that they were considered the wisest and most cultured people in Europe, but in their hatred of Jews they used their 'wisdom' and professional accuracy to inflict a Holocaust on us.

In Judaism there is a deep connection between man's wisdom and his morality:

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר לָאָדָ֗ם הֵ֤ן יִרְאַ֣ת ה' הִ֣יא חׇכְמָ֑ה וְס֖וּר מֵרָ֣ע בִּינָֽה׃ 

“He said to man, Behold [hen], the fear of Hashem, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28)

This is the ultimate 'wisdom':

שֶׁכֵּן בְּלָשׁוֹן יְוָנִי קוֹרִין לְאַחַת ״הֵן״.

“As in the Greek language they call one hen. Apparently, fear of G-d is of primary importance”. (Shabbat 31b)

It is an inclusive result of all other wisdoms: שכל החכמות הן הצעות והכנות להם "that all wisdoms are suggestions and preparations for them" (Musar Avicha 1:1). Is a kind of unique spiritual intelligence.

In Parashat Vayakhel we continue with the construction of the Mishkan. This year we also read in the Maftir about the yearly contribution of half shekel from which the sacrifices in the Temple would be offered (Shabbat Shkalim).

With the construction of the Mishkan, the Torah often mentions the 'wisdom' of those who engage in the craft. An expression of special wisdom for one of the most marvelous works that ever existed in the world. The Torah also uses a unique language: חֲכַם־לֵ֗ב " wise-hearted person" (although wisdom is in the brain and emotion is in the heart). Sages have engaged in the explanation of the concept of wisdom on all its angles.

Maimonides devoted an entire chapter to clarify the different types of 'wisdom':

שם 'חכמה' נופל בלשון העברי על ארבעה דברים. הוא נופל על 1) השגת האמיתות אשר תכלית כונתם - השגתו ית' – 2) על ידיעת המלאכות איזו מלאכה שתהיה "וכל חכם לב בכם" "וכל אשה חכמת לב". ונופל על 3) קנות מעלות המדות ... ונופל על 4) הערמה והתחבולה ... ומזה הענין - "חכמים המה להרע"; ואפשר שיהיה ענין 'חכמה' בלשון העברי מורה על הערמה ושימוש המחשבה...

“The term Cḥohmah ("wisdom") in Hebrew is used of four different things: (1) It denotes the knowledge of those truths which lead to the knowledge of G-d.  The word occurs frequently in this sense. (2) The expression Cḥohmah denotes also knowledge of any workmanship. (3) It is also used of the acquisition of moral principles. (4) It implies, lastly, the notion of cunning and subtlety; "They are wise to do evil" It is possible that the Hebrew Cḥohmah ("wisdom") expresses the idea of cunning and planning, which may serve in one case as a means of acquiring intellectual perfection, or good moral principles; but may in another case produce skill in workmanship, or even be employed in establishing bad opinions and principles. The attribute Cḥaham ("wise") is therefore given to a person that possesses great intellectual faculties, or good moral principles, or skill in art; but also, to persons cunning in evil deeds and principles.” (Guide for the Perplexed Part 3:54)

Hence in our Parasha 'חכמת הלב' ‘wise-hearted’ is a person with ‘professional wisdom’ at a high level. And one of the parts of wisdom is cunning and wisdom for evil.

Different sources of our time explained the concept of 'wise-hearted' as a kind of 'emotional intelligence' which was required of the builders of the Mishkan. Whereas the Ramban interprets that this is a unique and inclusive wisdom:

והנה הוא פלא שימצא בהם אדם חכם גדול בכסף ובזהב ובחרושת אבן ועץ וחושב ורוקם ואורג

“It was thus a wonder that there was to be found amongst them such a great wise-hearted man who knew how to work with silver and gold, and in cutting of stones [for setting] and in carving of wood, a craftsman, an embroiderer, and a weaver”. (Ramban Shmot 31:2).

It also includes and incorporates higher spiritual aspects:

ועוד, שהוא חכם גדול בחכמה בתבונה ובדעת להבין סוד המשכן וכל כליו למה צוו ואל מה ירמוזו

“Moreover, he [i.e., Bezalel] was a great Sage in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, to understand the secret of the Tabernacle and all its vessels, why they were commanded and to what they hinted”. (Ibid)

And we, who are building our inner temple in our hearts, require great wisdom and a great amount of Yir’at Hashem -Fearing G-d:

וְעַתָּה֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מָ֚ה ה' אֱלֹקיךָ שֹׁאֵ֖ל מֵעִמָּ֑ךְ כִּ֣י אִם־לְ֠יִרְאָ֠ה אֶת ה' אֱלֹקיךָ לָלֶ֤כֶת בְּכׇל־דְּרָכָיו֙ וּלְאַהֲבָ֣ה אֹת֔וֹ וְלַֽעֲבֹד֙ אֶת־ה֣' אֱלֹקיךָ בְּכׇל־לְבָבְךָ֖ וּבְכׇל־נַפְשֶֽׁךָ׃

"And now, O Israel, what does your G-Hashem demand of you? Only this: to revere your G-d Hashem, to walk only in divine paths, to love and to serve your G-d Hashem with all your heart and soul” (Devarim 10:12)

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