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EXODUS 28:3 – THE SOURCE AND ALLOCATION OF WISDOM

“Speak to all who are wise of heart whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, and have them make Aaron’s garments, so sanctify him to serve Me” (Exodus 28:3).

It is interesting that throughout the scriptures, the heart is seen as the seat of wisdom. For example, “I said to my heart: I have acquired great wisdom, more than all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has observed much wisdom and knowledge” (Ecclesiastes 1:16)

What is the source of wisdom? In a verse a few chapters later in Exodus, G-d says, “…I have endowed the heart of every wise-hearted person with wisdom…” (31:6)

This seems similar to a verse in the book of Daniel (2:21) that says that G-d gives wisdom to the wise. The Talmud emphasises that wisdom is only given to the wise (Shabbat 55a). Two questions immediately come to mind:

(1) If wisdom is only given to the wise, how does anyone initially acquire wisdom in the first place to then later receive it? Many answers have been proposed to answer this puzzling question. The simplest might be that the ultimate key to achieving wisdom is a true desire for it. We see that Solomon was granted his wisdom because this is exactly what he wanted most in this world (I Kings 3:5-12).

(2) In the Midrash (Koheles Rabbah 1) a matron asked Rabbi Yossi bar Chalafta that it makes no sense for G-d to give wisdom to the wise, they don’t need it. It would make more sense for G-d to give wisdom to those who are not wise.

The sage replied: Imagine two people coming to you for a loan. One is rich and the other is poor. To which would you rather give the loan – the rich man or the poor man?

She replied, ‘The rich man’

He asked her why, and she replied, ‘If the rich man loses my money, he will have a way of paying it back, but if the poor man loses his money, how will he pay me back?’

He then replied: Can’t you hear what you are saying? If G-d gave wisdom to fools, they would sit and ponder in the latrines and theatres and bathhouses. Instead, G-d gave wisdom to the wise, and they sit and ponder in the synagogues and study houses.

This lesson is so relevant to our time where there is often a proliferation of information but often precious little wisdom and understanding.

By Rabbi Michael Skobac

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