This week’s Middat HaShavuah, taken from this week’s Torah portion, Parshat VaYakhel, instructs us to approach our work with care. The verse, in its entirety, reads as follows:
וַיִּקְרָ֣א מֹשֶׁ֗ה אֶל־בְּצַלְאֵל֮ וְאֶל־אׇֽהֳלִיאָב֒ וְאֶל֙ כׇּל־אִ֣ישׁ חֲכַם־לֵ֔ב אֲשֶׁ֨ר נָתַ֧ן יְהֹוָ֛ה חׇכְמָ֖ה בְּלִבּ֑וֹ כֹּ֚ל אֲשֶׁ֣ר נְשָׂא֣וֹ לִבּ֔וֹ לְקׇרְבָ֥ה אֶל־הַמְּלָאכָ֖ה לַעֲשֹׂ֥ת אֹתָֽהּ׃
So Moshe called
for Betzalel, for Oholiav,
and for all men wise of mind into whose mind YHWH had put wisdom,
all those whose mind uplifted them to come-near for the work,
to make it.
(Exodus 36:2 – Dr. Everett Fox Translation)
The Middah which is derived from this verse implores us to approach our work with care. Just like Betzalel and Oholiav approached the work of the building of the Mishkan with care, we too must do the same in our lives, whether at work or at home.
There is another interesting word play in the verse. Moshe called for all people “wise of mind (חֲכַם־לֵ֔ב) into whose mind YHWH had put wisdom (חׇכְמָ֖ה בְּלִבּ֑וֹ), all those whose mind uplifted them (נְשָׂא֣וֹ לִבּ֔וֹ) to come-near for the work, to make it.”
Even though the verse refers to the word Lev (לֵ֔ב) three times, Dr. Everett Fox, whose main guiding principle of translation tries to capture the aural or heard aspects of the Hebrew text as closely as possible, translates this to mean “wisdom.” That is because, in the Torah, our hearts are the vessels of both our feelings and our wisdom.
In the Book of Proverbs, we learn:
רֵאשִׁ֣ית חׇ֭כְמָה קְנֵ֣ה חׇכְמָ֑ה וּבְכׇל־קִ֝נְיָנְךָ֗ קְנֵ֣ה בִינָֽה׃
The beginning of wisdom is—acquire wisdom;
With all your acquisitions, acquire discernment.
In Rashi’s commentary on this verse he says: “The beginning of wisdom [is to] acquire wisdom. At the beginning of your wisdom, learn from others and acquire for yourself the tradition from the mouth of the teacher, and afterwards with all your possession acquire understanding. Concentrate on it by yourself to understand the reasons, thereby deriving one thing from another.”
According to King Solomon, wisdom is the be all and the end all. The first wisdom is to acquire wisdom through an excellent education, through learning from others, through exceptional and experienced teachers. While King Solomon didn’t know it at the time, he was advocating for a Heschel education, because what distinguishes a Heschel education is not learning math facts or teaching through rote memorization. A Heschel education is actually about acquiring wisdom – the wisdom to think critically, to problem solve, to create meaning, and so much more! Those were the people that Moshe was looking for to build the Mishkan. Not only great artisans, but people with great wisdom. And those are the types of people that The Toronto Heschel School is producing to lead the Jewish people into the future – wise leaders, wise workers, wise thinkers – who approach their work with care, with wisdom and with discernment. (And, coincidentally, Heschel students are good artists too because of our integrated arts program!) I feel good leaving my future in their hands; I hope you do too!
Shabbat Shalom U’Mevorach,