People are by nature curious. When we’re young we want to know everything, and sometimes we think that we do. If a child overhears an adult conversation and asks to understand what the grownups are talking about, the response might be “You’ll understand when you’re older.” It’s not a satisfying explanation to a child, but it has an underlying message. The fact is that there are some things in life that you just can’t understand until you’ve lived through them, and there are other things you might never understand. As we mature we acquire different types of wisdom, including experience and “book” learning. And at various stages of life, we may rely on one type of wisdom or a combination of them to navigate our way through certain situations.
In parshat Tetzaveh, the Torah portion we read this week, God gives the commandments for what clothing the priests will wear, how they should be fashioned, and the materials that should be used in their fashioning. The priests are set to wear special clothing that distinguishes them from others in the service of God. These clothes are meant to add an aura of holiness to the priests as they complete their work. Since these vestments and garments are to be used for such a unique purpose, God gives a special instruction regarding who is to make them.
Chapter 28, verse 3 of the book of Exodus states: “Next you shall instruct all who are skillful, whom I have endowed with the gift of skill, to make Aaron’s vestments for consecrating him to serve Me as priest.” The Hebrew phrase that we translate as “skillful” is chochmei lev, which literally means “wise of heart.” God commands that a person who is wise of heart, someone with the emotional maturity that comes with both age and experience, take part in fashioning the priestly garments. This wisdom is different from intellectual knowledge. God specifically looks for a person whose heart and mind are working in tandem to aid in fashioning holiness.
This instruction from God teaches us that there are certain actions and certain deeds that are best suited for specific levels of maturity and certain types of wisdom. It’s a good reminder that we usually take age appropriateness into consideration for a reason, whether it’s for reading, playing, or certain privileges that older children may enjoy before younger siblings. True holiness comes not from striving to be better or smarter or more experienced than someone else, but from making the most of the knowledge you have and embracing every opportunity to learn more.
THIS TOO IS TORAH: A version of the term “wise of heart” also appears in Mishley (Proverbs). It’s part of the verse that serves as the source of the title of Inherit the Wind, a play about the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial.
“He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind; and the foolish shall be servant to the wise of heart.”
What do you think this verse is warning against?