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Espionage Gone Wrong – 3 Mistakes Made by the Spies

In last week’s Parsha, Shelach, Moshe sends spies to scout out the promised land of Canaan (Israel) so that the desert-wandering Jews could get a sense of the lay of the land and its inhabitants. Ten out of the twelve spies returned with a negative report. This incurred G-d’s wrath and earned the Hebrews 40 years of prolonged wondering in the wilderness before they could enter the land of Israel. Where exactly did the spies err?

One major mistake made by the spies was their failure to learn from the mistake of Moshe’s righteous sister, Miriam. At the end of the previous parsha, Miriam spoke unfairly about Moshe. In truth what she said was not that bad, but those who reach such a high spiritual level are judged by a higher standard. Her words caused her to be punished with tzaaras (usually translated as leprosy – See: The Power of Words). The Jews were unable to continue their journey until she was healed. This episode is immediately followed by the parsha detailing the sin of the spies. The spies slandered the land of Israel by claiming that its people were fearsome giants who lived in well-fortified, unconquerable cities. They bewailed that the Jewish people would be no match for the land’s inhabitants. Had they learned the proper lesson from Miriam’s affliction, they would not have spoken negatively.

The spies were no ordinary men. They were the holy and respected princes of each of the twelve tribes, handpicked by Moshe for this mission. Their error stemmed from a spiritual concern. In the desert, the Jewish people were provided with all of their physical needs by G-d in the most direct manner possible. Their shoes never wore out and their clothes repaired themselves. Their food came in the form of manna which descended from Heaven. In this miraculous existence, they had absolutely no reason to think about physical concerns. Indeed the Jewish people at this time were heavily involved in Torah study and observance of the laws they had recently been given. All their time was devoted toward spiritual pursuits. The spies knew that once the people entered the land, the Jewish people would be forced to engage in worldly affairs, such as working the land and earning a living. They feared that this would take a heavy toll on their service of G-d. This is precisely why ten of the spies described the land as one “which eats up its inhabitants,” meaning that the land, its labor, and preoccupation with the material world would ‘swallow up’ and drain the energy needed to perform their holy obligations (Torah Studies. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, 248).

This was the spies’ second error. They mistakenly assumed that the only way a person could fulfill their spiritual duties of serving G-d was by retreating from the physical world. Only in seclusion, they wrongly believed, could one properly serve G-d. Most world religions have indeed adopted this way of thinking. It is understandable that human beings would believe that the only way to lead a spiritual life is by avoiding a physical one. This is not true. The Torah demands that we intimately involve ourselves in the world so that we can elevate the physical world and draw down holiness into it. Chassidut explains that G-d’s purpose of creation was so that He could be sanctified even in the lowest world i.e. our physical world in which it is possibly to deny the existence and involvement of the Creator.  By bringing out the G-dliness within nature, we transform the world into a dwelling place for G-d and become partners in creation. This idea of synthesizing and unifying G-d with His creation is one of the most potent and beautiful truths revealed to the world through the giving of the Torah.

In closing, the spies were told to come back with a report describing the land. They were not instructed to provide their own opinion – which is exactly what they did. This was their third mistake. The spies – with the exception of Calev and Yehoshua – told the Israelites, “We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.” In life we are indeed supposed to use our intellect and resourcefulness to ‘scout out the land’ and be aware of the challenges we face. However, we must not despair just because a situation looks bleak. The final outcome of our efforts is decided by none other than G-d. It’s prudent to do our research and be more than a mere spectator in our own lives. However, we must trust that G-d ensures that everything happens for the best.

The Difference between Faith and Trust

Will Gotkin is a regular contributor to Gather the Jews.

This week we read in Parshas Behar about the law of shmita. Shmita is the Torah commandment that farmers in the land of Israel must let the land lie fallow every seventh year of the agricultural cycle. Shmita is often compared to Shabbat – the seventh day of the week in which Jews must rest and refrain from work.  But is the comparison congruous?

Before we compare shmita and Shabbat let us look at two Hebrew words that many people use synonymously. The words are emunah and bitachon. Are they the same? Not quite. Emunah means faith while bitachon means trust. Still don’t see a difference? Simply put, emunah is one’s belief in the existence of the Creator. Bitachon, however, is the knowledge that G-d is in control of everything and does everything for our benefit.

On Shabbat a person testifies that G-d created the world in six days and commanded us to rest on the seventh. However, during a shmita year a person who depends on working the land for their very livelihood demonstrates that G-d runs the world and will provide for her every need.

G-d rules over nature. Indeed one who observes shmita is testifying that it is actually G-d whom one is dependent upon for one’s livelihood. Whether the crops grow well, the consumers buy our goods, or the clients arrive at our office is not dependent on our charisma or knowledge, but on G-d’s blessing. Sure, we must work in order to be a vessel that is capable of receiving blessings – G-d purposely set up the world in this way, but the final outcome is determined by none other than the One who created an continues to sustain the universe.

Much thanks to Chabad.org. See: The Real Answer to the Question, “Who Moved My Cheese?”

 

Torah Portion: Making Sure Your Criticism is Constructive

Maybe not a kosher lunch, but perhaps a kosher criticism...

Will Gotkin is a regular contributor to Gather the Jews.

Last week in our study of Parshas Tazria we discussed the importance of words and the danger we may incur by speaking ill of others. Our words are indeed powerful and can be used to help as well as to harm. Sometimes helping another person may involve giving him or her some constructive criticism, but how do we know our criticism is motivated by genuine concern for the other’s well-being and not by a need to bolster our own ego?

This week’s parsha, Parshas Metzora discusses the process that a metzora – a person afflicted with a skin disease for having committed the sin of lashon hara (relating unkind, but true information about another) – underwent in order to become purified.

The Hebrew word metzora is a combination of three words – motze (shem) ra. Motze shem ra is a term which means “one who speaks ill of another” when that which he says is false i.e. slander or spreading a false rumor.[1]

The Torah tells us that only a Kohen (priest) had the power to declare someone a metzora. A Kohen must embody loving kindness for his fellow. This is one reason why even today Kohenim have the mitzvah of blessing the congregation. Only a Kohen could declare one a metzora, because if one were to proclaim that another was ritually impure without having a pure and true love for that person, the proclamation itself would be a form of motze shem ra.

Rabbi Abraham Twerski, M.D. suggests a good way to know whether our criticism is constructive or destructive. He writes that if we are willing to assist the person whom we are criticizing in correcting the defect or problem, the criticism is constructive. If we’re not interesting in helping the person to do right or at least directing him/her to those who can help, we should leave the criticism to someone who is willing.[2] However, Rabbi Twerski adds that if another seems to criticize us without concern for helping us to improve, we should still consider the comment. Even if the criticizer’s intent wasn’t noble, the observation may still be valid.[3]

Our primary job is to act with kindness toward others. The Baal Shem Tov teaches that if we find fault with another, it is a reflection of our own faults. We would all do well to remember this before we point out deficiencies in other people. Furthermore, we must make sure our care and concern for others is genuine before we pronounce judgment on them.


[1] Pearls for the Shabbos Table. From the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Y. Alperowitz

[2] It’s Not As Tough As You Think. Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, MD. 185-186

[3] Ibid, 186

 

The Power of Words


Will Gotkin is a recent graduate of The George Washington University and a regular contributor to GTJ.

Everybody has heard the old expression: “words can hurt.” In Judaism speech is considered very important. Our Torah begins with an account of G-d creating the world through His speech. By G-d’s speech our world is also continually sustained. One implication of being created in G-d’s image is that we have been endowed with the ability to speak. Our gift of speech is something that distinguishes us from the animal kingdom. However, with great power comes great responsibility. Our words could be used to build, but can also be used to destroy.

Parshas Tazria deals mainly with the laws concerning tzaaras. Tzaaras, often incorrectly translated as leprosy, was actually a spiritual affliction that was a Divine punishment for speaking lashon hara (literally, ‘evil tongue’). Lashon hara mainly refers to gossip. A victim of tzaaras was identified by a white spot on their skin. If two white hairs were within that spot of missing pigment a Kohen (priest of the Tabernacle) would pronounce that the person had tzaaras and the person would be exiled from the community for at least one week.

The only cure for the malady was sincere repentance. If after a week the person was cured he or she was allowed to return to society. However, there is a question as to why a person with tzaaras had to endure the shame of being exiled from the community. After all, it was a spiritual condition rather than a physical one and therefore there was no cause for concern that the disease would spread.

The Maharal of Prague explains that a person who speaks lashon hara undermines the peace of society and of the people living in the society. Therefore it is a fitting punishment that as a result of such unacceptable behavior a person be separated from the community and be forced to live alone.[1]

The Torah only legislates punishments which fit their respective crimes measure for measure. Just as lashon hara breeds separation and disunity between people, a person who spreads gossip must be separated from society until they have changed their ways.

The Talmud tells us that the sin of lashon hara is one that everyone of us commits daily. Luckily for us, no one is afflicted with tzaaras anymore. Nevertheless, lashon hara is still considered a grave sin. The Chofetz Chaim writes that the sin of lashon hara taints all of one’s mitzvos and good deeds done previously. The Torah describes tzaaras in great detail in order to teach us to be exceedingly careful with our words. Whenever we say an unkind thing about another we develop an ugly blotch of tzaaras on our souls. The malady of tzaaras was meant to train the Jewish people to guard their tongues. We must not only be careful not say unkind things about others, but we must also sincerely repent when we transgress. In many cases a person must beseech the person they have wronged with their speech for forgiveness.

We have all been a victim of gossip and rumors at some point in our lives. As many of us already know, even when the person who wronged us offers us a sincere apology the damage may linger much longer. A person can never put words they have spoken back in their mouth. As a result of lashon hara a person’s reputation may be left permanently ruined. This is why Jewish sources liken the sin of lashon hara to murder.

We would all do well to try to be a little more careful with our words. A great thing we can do is try to speak more words of kindness. The Talmud tells us that the Temple was destroyed as a punishment for baseless hatred between Jews. The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches that the Temple will be rebuilt on a foundation of baseless love. We can all do our part to foster unity and peace in the world by being careful with the words we speak. Through our efforts we will all merit the final redemption of the entire world.


[1] Studies in the Weekly Parsha Vayikra. Nachshone, Rabbi Y., 724

Torah Portion: Sacrificing the Animal Within

Will Gotkin is a recent graduate of The George Washington University and a regular contributor to GTJ.

Parashas Vayikra is understandably one of the most challenging for many of us as it mostly deals with animal sacrifices. Indeed, the animal sacrifices can only be practiced when we have the Temple in Jerusalem, something we haven’t had for almost 2,000 years. Not only that, but the sacrificial laws were not even a part of the everyday life of the average Jew when they were practiced (Most Jews only visited the Temple three times a year).[1] All of this leads one to wonder what how we can relate this parasha to our lives in a practical way.

Chassidic thought teaches that a deeper look at the sacrifices teaches us about the inner meaning behind all of the mitzvot.[2] Although the sacrifices in the Temple involved physical animals, each sacrifice was meant to teach us about something spiritual that relates to the inward acts of sacrifice in the life of every Jew.[3] Sacrificing animals in the Sanctuary represents the way in which a Jewish person sacrifices their own animal-nature. Previously G-d told the Jewish people to build a Sanctuary so that He could dwell within the people. This means that G-d desires to dwell within every single Jew. To achieve this, a Jew must make his/her own body a Sanctuary that is able to receive the Divine Presence.

Every character flaw or negative trait we possess is like a little animal inside of us that inhibits our ability to connect with G-d. The sacrifice of physical animals in the Sanctuary was meant to illustrate this message in a vivid way. When we sacrifice the animal within us our physical bodies remain intact because Judaism doesn’t believe in destroying the body in order to connect to the spiritual. Rather, we are to redirect the energy of our bodies toward holiness. True, we are all born animals, but within us resides a soul that is part of G-d, which gives us the ability to transcend our animal limitations in pursuit of higher goals.

The purpose of physicality is such that it is meant to be utilized for spiritual purposes. The animal sacrifices demonstrate that all of the laws of the Torah are meant to show us how to perform every physical act for the sake of holiness. For example we eat and drink on Shabbat as a means to sanctify the day, and we use physical wool to make Tzitzis (ritual fringes) and physical leather for Tefillin.[4] In this way all of these things become both elevated toward G-dliness as well as vessels with the power to draw down G-dliness into this physical world. G-d’s desire to dwell within our physical world is indeed the entire purpose of creation. Currently we are unable to perform the sacrificial offerings of the Temple. However, we can still achieve the purpose of Creation on an individual level through working on ourselves and redirecting our physical, animalistic drives towards fulfillment of the mitzvot.


[1] http://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/497505/jewish/The-Ultimate-Mitzvah.htm

[2] Ibid.

[3] Torah Studies. Sacks, Rabbi Jonathan (adapted discourses of the Lubavitcher Rebbe), 154

[4] Ibid., 157

Torah portion: Why we must continue to gather the Jews

Will Gotkin is a recent graduate of The George Washington University and a regular contributor to GTJ.

Parashas Pekudei describes how the Jewish people’s donations led to the construction of the Mishkan (the Holy Tabernacle). The combined contributions of the people were used to erect an edifice in which G-d’s presence would dwell among them. The act demonstrates that wonderful things can happen when we put our differences aside and work together.

Each component of the Mishkan – the menorah, the spices, the curtains, the keruvim, etc. – possesses a unique holiness and performs a specific function simply by virtue of being part of the Mishkan as a whole. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains we can learn from this is that each of us possesses an intrinsic worth that makes us equal to every other individual of the Jewish people regardless of our spiritual stature. Also, whatever good we do for the community at large also helps us fulfill our own unique purpose.[1]

Interestingly, this week’s reading of the Tanya – a work of Chassidic philosophy authored by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi in 1797 – discusses the notion of Jewish unity. It teaches that G-d’s infinite light will reside within the Community of Israel (the Jewish people) so long as they are united as one. Furthermore it is impossible for G-d’s presence to dwell among the Jewish people if there is disunity between them because G-d’s presence does not dwell in an imperfect, fragmented place.[2]

Every Jew is special, but G-d’s presence rests among us only when we work together. The redemption of the Jewish people and indeed the entire world will come when the Jewish people are united as one. Our current exile was started by groundless hatred between Jews during the time of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and it will end when unity and love of one’s fellow predominates. This is why Gather the Jews and other, similar ‘Jew-gathering’ organizations must continue to gather and unite the scattered sparks of holiness found within each member of the Jewish nation. This parasha teaches us that we must use our unique, special talents with which we have been endowed by our Creator to make the 2,000 year-old dream of Jewish unity and universal harmony a reality.

Every day we pray in the Shimoneh Esrei that G-d commence the ingathering of the exiles by saying the following blessing: “Blessed are you, Lord, who gathers the dispersed of His people Israel.” May this prayer be answered speedily and in our days.


[1] Ibid, 285

[2] Likutei Amarim Chapter 32

Torah Portion: Who are the Cherubim (Kerubim) or the winged statutes atop the Holy Ark?

Anna Batler blogs about faith and feminism at http://sotah.net/.  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Anna Batler.

I look for cracks, moments when the normative tradition allows in its midst a weed. The Cherubim are a crack in the normative tradition.  A pair of cherubim, with faces and wings, adorned the Ark of the Covenant – either atop the ark or standing in front of the ark, covering the ark with their golden wings.

And he [Bazelel] made two cherubim of gold: of beaten work made he them, at the two   ends of the ark-cover: one cherub at the one end, and one cherub at the other end; of          one piece with the ark-cover made he the cherubim at the two ends thereof. And          the       cherubim spread out their wings on high, screening the ark-cover with their wings, with   their faces one to another; toward the ark-cover were the faces of the cherubim.  Exodus 37:7-9.

And in the Sanctuary he [King Solomon] made two cherubim of olive-wood, each ten       cubits high. And five cubits was the one wing of the cherub, and five cubits the other           wing of the cherub; from the uttermost part of the one wing unto the uttermost part of the   other were ten             cubits. And the other cherub was ten cubits; both the cherubim were of      one measure and one form. The height of the one cherub was ten cubits, and so was it of          the other cherub. And he set the cherubim within the inner house; and the wings of the     cherubim were stretched forth, so that the wing of the one touched the one wall, and the      wing of the other cherub touched the other wall; and their wings touched one another in          the midst of the house. And he overlaid the cherubim with gold. I Kings 6: 23-28.

And,

The wings of these cherubim spread themselves forth twenty cubits; and they stood on     their feet, and their faces were inward.  II Chronicles 3:13

Making images of the Divine is forbidden.  This one of the Ten Commandments and a central tenant of Jewish tradition, it is against this backdrop that that golden calf becomes a terrible sin.  And yet the Cherubim stand in this most sacred space, the place from where God speaks.

And there I will meet with thee, and I will speak with thee from above the ark-cover,        from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things            which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel. Exodus 25:22.

According to one opinion in the Talmud, the Cherubim faced each other when the Jews were obeying God, and faced away when the Jews were disobedient. Baba Betra 99a.  Yet, the text is clear that the Cherubim faced each other – why then is Talmud discussing their positioning?  Perhaps the Talmud is looking for an explanation for their existence, keenly aware that there is little explanation for such creatures in the Jewish tradition, and even a bit embarrassed by their presence. The Talmud, expresses its embarrassment by describing what the other thought of our Cherubim.

When the heathens entered the Temple and saw the Cherubim whose bodies were  intertwisted with one another, they carried them out and said: These Israelites, whose blessing is a blessing, and whose curse is a curse, occupy themselves with such things!  And immediately they despised them, as it is said: All that honored her, despised her, because they have seen her nakedness.

The Cherubim are our nakedness; a vulnerable moment – a moment that questions the very foundation of normative Judaism, where God has no face and no name; a crack in the holy of holies.  Perhaps, the sacred demands inconsistency and ambiguity even if might embarrass.

Torah Portion: A Time to Work and a Time to Rest

Will Gotkin is a recent graduate of The George Washington University and a regular contributor to GTJ.

Last week G-d instructed the Jewish people not to work on the Mishkan (Tabernacle) during Shabbat. G-d anticipated that the Jewish people in their anxiousness to repent for the sin of the Golden Calf might not wish to put aside their work on the Mishkan for Shabbat. Today everything that is considered prohibited ‘work’ on the Sabbath day stems from the 39 types of labor that went into constructing the Mishkan. This week, in Parshas Vayakheil, G-d again reminds the Jewish people to honor the Shabbat saying “You may do work during the six weekdays, but the seventh day must be kept holy to you as a Sabbath of Sabbaths to G-d” (Exodus 35:2).

The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that while doing our weekday work we must be careful not to invest all of our energies. Our weekday work is indeed very important. During the week we earn a living and simultaneously refine the world and make it a home for G-d through our daily, mundane activities. However, we must not allow our weekday work to overtake our minds and hearts. Furthermore, our work must not be allowed to encroach on our set times for communal prayer, Torah study, charitable pursuits, educating our children, and so forth.[1] During the week, we use our creativity to perfect the world through all of our activities. However, on Shabbat we take time out from the pressures and concerns of the week to honor this special day by focusing more exclusively on holiness, family, and enjoying G-d’s creation rather than utilizing it for our own ends.

G-d was right in anticipating that the Jewish people may be hesitant to desist from work and honor the Shabbat. The Rebbe teaches that if we devote all of our energies to work, our weekday thoughts and worries will haunt us on Shabbat. It will then be very difficult to divorce ourselves from work.[2] Many people find refraining from work especially difficult because they cannot conceive of taking a break from the things in which they are so engaged.  On Shabbat we recognize that G-d runs the world and continually sustains it. By honoring the Shabbat we also testify that we have intrinsic value even when we are not working.

On Shabbat we do not abandon the world completely. In fact, we enjoy it and derive pleasure from it rather than make it bend to our will as we do during the week. Shabbat is a time of joy in which Jewish people laugh, drink, eat, and sing more than they do during the week. However, Me’am Lo’ez reminds us that “and the seventh day shall be holy to you,” is meant to teach that one who is so immersed in their work that they do not study Torah during the week must at least study on Shabbat.[3]

Many of us have productive and hectic schedules. It is understandable that the stresses of everyday life sometimes overwhelm us, but we must always strive to maintain a balance. Shabbat can give us that balanced perspective and bring a wonderful sense of holiness, peace, and tranquility into our lives. Shabbat Shalom!


[1] Torah Chumash Shemot The Book of Exodus. With commentary based on the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Kehot Publication Society, 71

[2] Ibid.

[3] Yalkut Me’am Lo’ez, The Torah Anthology. Exodus-VII 10

Parsha Time: The Hidden Face of G-d

Will Gotkin is a recent graduate of The George Washington University and a regular contributor to GTJ.

The question: “Why do bad things happen to good people, while many wicked people seem to prosper?” is one that has troubled philosophers and religions over the centuries. Questions about why the righteous suffer are understandable, but they are based on the assumption that what we see in our limited perception is the way things really are.

After the sin of the Golden Calf in Parshas Ki Sisa, G-d informed Moshe that His Divine Presence would not accompany the Jews into the land of Israel. Instead, an Angel would accompany us into the Holy Land. Moshe pleaded that G-d’s presence alone be the One to guide us, and his prayers were answered.

After successfully pleading with G-d not to destroy the Jewish people for creating the Golden Calf and convincing G-d to allow the Divine presence to travel with us into the Israel, Moshe decides to do something that seems totally in line with the trait of classical Jewish chutzpah. He makes a demand of G-d saying “Show me now Your Glory” (Exodus 33: 18).

The Talmud states that part of the reason for this demand was Moshe’s burning curiosity to know the answer to one of life’s greatest questions: ‘Why there are righteous people who suffer, and wicked people who seem to have it easy?’ Shortly thereafter, G-d tells Moshe “you will see My back, but My face may not be seen” (Exodus 33:23). This statement requires some explanation.

Our Sages debate whether or not G-d answered Moshe’s question – Rabbi Meir holding that He did not, while Rabbi Yehoshua holds He did. Rabbis Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) suggests that the two Tannaic rabbis were not arguing, instead explaining that in the cryptic statement above, G-d was telling Moshe that no mortal human being can ever know who is righteous and who is wicked, or what is good and what is bad. In other words G-d did indeed answer Moshe, but He did not include a reason. In other words, while Moshe was asking why the righteous suffer and wicked earn reward, G-d was informing Moshe that as a human living in a physical body, Moshe’s perspective was limited. Therefore not even Moshe – a person to whom G-d revealed everything that can be revealed to a human being – can know when reward begins, punishment ends, or what righteous people of today were like in previous incarnations.[1]

Chasam Sofer teaches that the ‘face’ of G-d refers to what we experience as the events in our lives unfold.[2] A person never knows where events in the present will lead to in the future. We cannot judge the purpose of any given situation until after the fact. Only after all is said and done can we possibly understand why something happened in our own lives, and sometimes it is not until much time has passed. It is then that we see the ‘back’ of G-d so-to-speak, but His ‘face’ will always remain hidden to those whose souls remain in a physical body.

This idea is demonstrated quite clearly by the miracle of Purim which we will be celebrating next month. Purim is the only story in the Bible in which G-d is not explicitly mentioned. However, through a string of seemingly coincidental events we see G-d was indeed a character with an active role throughout. This is true in each and every one of our own lives. Everything that befalls us is Hashgacha Pratis (Divine Providence), or the product of G-d’s orchestration of the world. Furthermore nothing bad comes from G-d. If we truly understood why things happen the way they do from His perspective we would no longer see the bad. The challenge of life is to try to see G-d in all that befalls us and remain steadfast in our faith that all is for the best.


[1] Y. Nachshoni, Studies in the Weekly Parshah. 583

[2] Ibid.

Parsha Time: Part 1 — Rabbi Berkman on working hard

To round up the week, Gather the Jews is posting three commentaries on this week’s Torah portion.  This is the first and is a continuation of Rabbi Berkman’s post earlier this week.

Rabbi Berkman is a rabbi for Mesorah DC and leads this weekly discussion of the Torah portion.

Blogn’ from the Beach

I just checked the weather. As I write this blog entry, it’s 21 degrees in D.C. I’m away in sunny Florida, it was 85 today. That’s probably enough food for thought to get you through the weekend, but let’s revisit our question of the week anyway.

We asked about the words and concept “Chacham Lev”- “wise of heart.” Wisdom usually refers to intellect, while the heart is a place of emotions and desires. What does the merger of the two ideas tell us?

Let me know what you think of this. We all know the type. The guy (or gal) for whom everything seems to come easily. Straight “A”s without even trying, constant promotions while putting little effort into his or her work. You know what I mean.

This person probably has some sort of natural talent that allows her to not work so hard. Maybe she was born smart and is really just more intellectually gifted than the rest of us. Good for he; we really should be happy for her.

Then there are the rest of us. Things may not always come so easily, and if we really want to accomplish something and to succeed, we have to work at it.  More than any natural gift, our success is a product of our desire to succeed. The more we want it, the harder we will try and the more likely we become to accomplish our goals.

Allow me to suggest that a “chacham lev” “wise of heart” is not a person who is naturally talented or someone who was born intellectually gifted. The Torah is telling us about the person who had to work hard to acquire the skill that he has. This is a person fitting to make the regal garments of the “kohain” in the tabernacle to be worn in the holiest of places at the holiest times.

Now let’s look at the rest of the passage: “speak to every wise of heart in whom I invested the spirit of wisdom.”  If they are already wise, born smart, why then would God need to provide any ‘spirit of wisdom’?

The Torah is teaching us an awesome lesson about the power of one’s desire and search for wisdom. God says: “speak every wise of heart”- all those who yearn for and desire true wisdom, because among them you will find “those with whom I have invested the spirit of wisdom.” If we truly want it, and honestly search for it, God will lead us, help us discover and bring true wisdom into our lives.

I’m typing outside today and should probably go in before I get sunburned.

Shabbat Shalom