The wisdom of the heart

Ninety-nine years ago, A.D. Gordon, an important Zionist leader, distinguished between two types of truth — one deriving from knowledge and one from opinion. When we are dealing with knowledge, our goal is to suppress as much as we can our own personal ideas and tendencies, in order to discover the reality outside of our subjective understanding. A reality that is true for everyone. A congruence between our consciousness and reality as it is. An objective truth.

When we are dealing with the fields of culture and opinion, our goal should be the complete opposite. The opinion is an optimal expression of our identity and personality. In its essence it can not fit everyone. It should stem from the roots of life of the person expressing it. A subjective truth.

In Gordon’s words: “The more the opinion is subjective, independent, to the extent that its roots are numerous and deeply embedded in the unique soul of the opinion’s holder, if it serves as a way of expression for their whole inner-world, in all of their attributes, in general and in particular […] if the opinion is tainted by cravings or bias, whether  proximal or distal, deep or shallow, familiar or not, if there are elements from others subjective worlds involved, elements that do not match those of the holders opinion, even if he does not recognize it, the holders opinion is, as a result, not an opinion of truth.”

According to this notion, the gap between different people’s opinion should not act as a barrier between them. Those who honestly ask to live and learn themselves, or in the existentialistic language — to live an authentic life, can become friends and partners on the challenging journey of self discovery. The contradicting opinions between two people can aid them on their journey. I need an opinion opposing mine in order to find my truth in the clearest way. Dispute is a tool for mutual inspiration and self discovery and not for an aggressive struggle leading to hatred (excluding instances in which the other opinion violently crushes me or my fellow man).

As A.D. Gordon further writes, “In reality, we see the complete opposite of this.”

That is, belligerence and combativeness. From his perspective, this stems from the fact that our opinions are not totally rooted within us, that outer elements have snuck into them and that we accept different “First principles, which cannot be doubted, as objective and absolute truth.” We confuse between opinion and knowledge.

Gordon gave me a new understanding of an expression placed five times, in different declensions, in the weekly Torah portion. Those engaged in the construction of the Tabernacle, the Mishkan, from Bezalel and Aholiab, managers and architects, to the last of the workers and those contributing to this enterprise – they must all be wise of heart.

And every wise-hearted among you shall come, and make all that the Lord hath commanded; And all the women that were wise hearted did spin with their hand; And Moses called Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whose heart the Lord had put wisdom, even every one whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it.” (Exodus, 35-36)

If wisdom that is not attributed to the heart is the wisdom of knowledge, the wisdom of science and mathematics and logic, of the objective, then wisdom of the heart may be the wisdom of opinion. It expresses the ability to connect deeply to the self, to create and discover the depth of my inner-self, the roots of my life, and to conduct myself from a wise and sensitive connection inside. A Mishkan cannot be built without the wisdom of the heart, or it would be based on estrangement, on quarrel and on violent dispute. The Divine Presence does not dwell in areas of violence, hatred, and anger.

The establishment of a common, loving home for a people is a craft that recruits the wisdom of the heart. If based on extraneous considerations, on alienation and on hate, it might lead to complete destruction and annihilation. To expect the election campaign in Israel to recruit the wisdom of the heart would be overly naïve. Yet, immediately after the elections, all the wise of heart in the Israeli society must join forces and try to heal our common national home. May it not be too late.

Translated from Hebrew by Amalya Giebermann and Nella Fledsher

About the Author
Lior Tal Sadeh is the Chief Content Officer (CCO) at Kolot, an Israeli Beit Midrash for leaders and influencers.
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