The Ones With a Wise Heart

And you shall speak to all the wise-hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, and they shall make Aaron’s garments to sanctify him, [so] that he serve Me [as a kohen].

If intelligence comes from the brain, then why is wisdom from the heart? And why are these people making the priestly clothes? Wouldn’t a tailor do?

First, let’s define wise-hearted: They are not PhDs; They were not finalists in The Quiz Show, and they haven’t memorized the phone book. They are simply devout and modest Jews.

Rabbi Yaakov Ben Asher, known as the Baal Haturim, uses numerology, in Hebrew Gematria, to define wise-hearted — mentioned in this week’s Torah portion. The 13th Century sage says this numerical value reads “fear,” specifically one who fears G-d. He brings down a verse from Psalms that establishes the basis of wisdom: “The beginning of wisdom is fear of G-d.”

Avraham Ibn Ezra alluded to this 200 years earlier. The wise-hearted were completely faithful and reliable. Moses would tell them how to make the incredibly complicated threads woven of gold, wool and linen. And the wise-hearted would do it. They didn’t see themselves as artists or fashion designers. They were simply agents of their leader, who would be given credit for the work.

Their loyalty resulted in the wisdom of the agents. Indeed, their wisdom passed from G-d through Moses and to those who represented him. The Kli Yakar, Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz, sees this as a heavenly light that illuminated the techniques of stitching the garments for Aaron the High Priest and his sons. The wise-hearted would become whatever was necessary to complete their job — whether as “master weavers” or jewelers.

Because their strength was in humility and discipline, none of the wise-hearted were named. The exception was the one charged with overseeing the construction of the Tabernacle. Bezalel Ben Uri Ben Hur came from the tribe of Judah. He was all of 13 years old. Moses wouldn’t have dared to appoint him. G-d did. Bezalel was aided by Oholiav the son of Achisamach,from the tribe of Dan.

In next week’s Torah portion, G-d would list the traits that Bezalel possessed to fulfill his mission. He would become a master weaver, jeweler, carpenter and tailor.

And I shall fill him with the spirit of the Lord, with wisdom, understanding and knowledge and with [talent for] all manner of craftsmanship.

Here Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki, or Rashi, defines each term. “Wisdom” is the ability to hear what others say and learn. “Understanding” enables one to use his studies to learn new things and solve problems. Finally, there is “knowledge,” which Rashi calls “the holy spirit.”

How do you obtain the holy spirit? The Ibn Ezra says only a few have it, and that’s why Bezalel and his colleague Oholiav were selected to build the divine home. They were involved in all areas of the Tabernacle and assigned tasks to the wise-hearted.

Man wants to build, even invent. Many see themselves as trailblazers, pioneers, visionaries. They tout their books as ground-breaking; their policies as brilliant; their reach eternal. They seek fame at any cost. And if that doesn’t work, they’ll settle for infamy.

But the ones selected for the Tabernacle are the exact opposite. They are nameless and silent. Their key is in following instructions. They fear doing anything that will reflect ego and stray from G-d’s commandments. Their mission is the key. The time is now. There is nothing else.

Many centuries later, a version of this single-mindedness would be transformed into a popular method named after a radio operator Jose Silva. But the best example of the subjugation of all ego and wasted energy was Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Schneerson of Lubavitch. With the advent of the Soviet Union in 1920, the rabbi and his hasidim turned into outlaws. They were branded counter-revolutionaries, and many of them were arrested and executed. Their oppressors were mainly Jews in the Communist Party and the secret police. One of them was a GPU official whose father was a Lubavitch hasid.

In 1927, the Rebbe was arrested in Leningrad and sentenced to death. He no longer had a name, rather a number, 26818. He did not flinch. He could not fill his mind with sadness or anxiety, rather faith in G-d. He refused to cooperate with his captors, ignoring them as he prayed, sitting when they demanded he stand. He shrugged off the frequent beatings.

“As for the emissaries from your organization, I have not feared, I do not fear, and I will not fear them,” the Rebbe said.

The Rebbe’s calm and faith stunned his captors. Abroad, rabbis and prominent Jews were working for his release. The death sentence was commuted to life in prison, then three years. A few months later, he was released and eventually made it to the United States. He met the president. And then, he returned to his work of spreading Yiddishkeit. He returned to the Soviet Union to reclaim his possessions — which took up four railroad cars. A few years later, the Lubavitch leader, now in Poland, would again be on the run — this time from the Germans.

The mind-set of the wise-hearted allowed them to reach a state of perfection. Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev says this is impossible under normal circumstances. When man indulges in material pleasure he can never achieve perfection; his work is invariably flawed.

But when man engages fully in serving G-d, then the work reaches completion. Man can do anything and his service is pleasurable.

“For those who seek G-d will not want for any good,” Rabbi Levi Yitzhak says. “And this is the pleasure of service to G-d, which comes above everything else.”

About the Author
Steve Rodan has been a journalist for some 40 years and worked for major media outlets in Israel, Europe and the United States. For 18 years, he directed Middle East Newsline, an online daily news service that focused on defense, security and energy. Along with Elly Sinclair, he has just released his first book: In Jewish Blood: The Zionist Alliance With Germany, 1933-1963 and available on Amazon.