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"And everyone wise of heart amongst you
shall come . . ." (Shemot 35:10)

The Almighty only gives wisdom to those who possess it already, as we learn in the Book of Daniel: "He gives wisdom to the wise". (Brachot 55a) This passage from the gemora in Brachot is puzzling-- how does one become wise in the first place, to merit the forthcoming Divine gift of wisdom? How does one get it initially, to receive more?

The answer to this seeming contradiction sheds a profound light on how the Torah views wisdom and its relationship to character. To receive the Divine gift of wisdom one must first prepare himself and make himself into a vessel worthy of receiving that gift. This is what is meant by the phrase in our posuk: "wise of heart". The foundation of wisdom is the ability to be a worthy recipient of wisdom, recognizing it as a gift from the Almighty himself.

This is the meaning of the passage in tractate Niddah (30b): "A fetus is taught the entire Torah while it still is in its mother's womb." Said a bit differently, when one learns Torah, that wisdom is not something external from the individual. Rather, it flows from the depths of his own heart when he or she is sensative enough to hear his heart's voice emmenating from his soul. When this sensativity to his own internal understanding is present, then it is possible to truely understand the teachings of his mentors.

This preparation and purity, this internal sensativity to the Torah in his soul, is the meaning of "wise of heart". One who possesses it can already be called, in a sense, wise. It is to this kind of wise individual that Hashem gives wisdom, as his heart is free to absorb the wisdom flowing from the depths of his soul.

(This d'var Torah is based on the work Peninei Daas, the essays of the Telsher Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Eliyahu Meir Bloch, zt"l, edited by Rabbi Noson Tzvi Baron, shlit"a, and Rabbi Avrahom Chaim Levin, shlit"a, vol.1, pp. 225, 237-8)

Rabbi Zvi B. Hollander
Young Israel of Venice-Torah Learning Center


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