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Wise of Heart

Wise of Heart


“Let all those wise of heart come and do”—Exodus 35:10.

Moses called upon each individual member of the Children of Israel to come forward and use their particular skill (“wisdom”) to build the Mishkan—the desert Tabernacle. The Mishkan was an amazing work of art and engineering, and much wisdom and skill were required to build it.

But why does he issue a call for the “wise of heart”? Is this not a contradiction in terms? After all, wisdom is in the mind, while emotions are in the heart!

Perhaps the Torah is teaching us a valuable lesson, especially applicable in the construction of our personal Mishkan.

Skill alone is sterile, while emotion alone is unpredictableSkill alone is sterile, while emotion alone is unpredictable.

The wise person can know something and it can have no effect on his or her life—it remains in the display case of their brain, never used to direct their behavior.

Another person may have profound experiences of deep religious emotion expressed so strongly that they reach a point where they lose sight of other good things in which they should be involved, or they become overly critical of others who seem not to be as enthused as they.

Hence, G‑d directs Moses to tell the Jewish people: As each and every one of you is building a personal Mishkan—a Sanctuary for G‑d made of the stuff of your life—remember to be “wise of heart.”

“Wise”—allow G‑dly wisdom to direct your feelings in a constructive, balanced and inclusive way.

“Of heart”—allow this knowledge to create a current of excitement and passion for the good and the G‑dly that fills your body and changes your world.

Rabbi Shlomo Yaffe is a frequent contributor of articles and media to, is Dean of the Institute of American and Talmudic Law in New York, N.Y., and Rabbi of Congregation B'nai Torah in Springfield. Mass. Rabbi Yaffe has lectured and led seminars throughout North America, as well as in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
Artwork by David Brook. David lives in Sydney, Australia, and has been selling his art since he was in high school. He is currently painting and doing web illustrations.
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Anonymous NY March 23, 2017

beautiful Reply

Anonymous New York March 13, 2015

The Rav, R' Soloveitchik, ZT"L, has this same thought on the Parsha, as well. Reply

Ms. Avigayil MacArthur Boston, Massachusetts via February 23, 2014

Masc and Fem What I see is that we need the masculine and the feminine combined... to build a home for Hashem. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma March 2, 2011

Yaffe This is interesting. I came to this blog right after having a poem of mine that uses the Hebrew word Yaffe for beautiful and many did not know its meaning. So I told my fellow poets the meaning of the Hebrew.

Then I open this and notice, the author's name with new depth of feeling.

It's a lovely article and I did so appreciate this.

Yaffeh m'od! Reply

Deborah Levine West Hartford, ct February 25, 2011

heart and mind this reminds me of a quote I once saw::"It takes hands to build a house but only hearts can build a home."Thank you Rabbi Yaffe Reply

Florence Medford February 23, 2011

Resonance This is a significant contribution for me in that it not only answers the "wise of heart" question, but also explains how Torah Study leads me to an intellectual understanding as my heart fills with the joy of it. Thank you Rabbi Yaffe ! Reply

ruth housman marshfield, ma February 22, 2011

Wisdom must join with love or it is not wisdom You cannot build anything in life of lasting value without heart. Love infuses true creativity and we know the difference between something that is static and something that creates static electricity, namely, sparks us.

The reason people like to gather where there is creativity is that these sparks do jump the gap. We need our art galleries, our literature, our writers, painters, sculptors, dancers. It all does deeply connect and love is the binding force that propels creation forward.

It is said that all songs are love songs.

The apprehension of beauty is wisdom combined with love. We must remember this in making rules and in breaking them. Reply

Kayo Tokyo, Japan February 20, 2011

Chabad Chabad education which taught me "Wise of Heart", changed me. Reply

Anonymous Portland, Oregon February 20, 2011

Mishkan Build for me a Place of worship and I will dwell among you. The place to build is within us body and soul for the Eternal dwells among you and I in our heart and soul. Reply

leslie Jersey City, NJ March 18, 2009

Wise of Heart This was really on target for me. I tend to be very passionate about my faith and while this is wonderful is can lead to being overly critical. Yes--G-dly wisdom..that creates a current of stuff. Thank you!!! Reply

Josh F. March 18, 2009

The wisdom from above must direct the heart here below, which is so often divided in its passions of avodah- or service. Once that wisdom descends from above, we can begin to heal the heart, and direct it to the single source of wisdom above. Thank you for your insight. Reply

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