In this week's Torah portion (Vayakhel) we read about the Jews helping out in the building of the Tabernacle. When referring to the talent (or mastery) in doing so, the Torah uses the term "חכמת לב". To me this seems like an unusual term to describe talent. Is there anything deeper here? or this is actually a typical term?

  • Ibn Ezra's explanation sounds credible. My own thinking, based on a "simpler" level - The center of emotions is in the heart. Often, when we do a job, we have the wisdom and knowledge of how to do it, but inevitably our emotions can inhibit or enhance what we do. Thus, in the building of the mishkan, these were people who used their emotional "wisdom" to enhance their work. It's one thing to do what's needed. But to make it nice and extraordinary requires the wisdom of the heart, not just from the brain.
    – DanF
    Mar 10 '15 at 14:22
  • The Chumash often uses לב/לבב to mean "mind". This is evident from many instances (and discussed at length by R. Shlomo Fisher in Beis Yishai) Mar 1 '16 at 3:23

Ibn Ezra writes (to Shmos 31:6):

ובלב כל חכם לב. לעשות מלאכה כי גם זה ימצא בתולדת האדם שיוציא מלבו דברים עמוקים במלאכת המדות והוא לא למד החכמה

and all the wise hearted into whose hearts I have instilled wisdom -- to do work; for we find a similar thing among people, who know how to do complicated (lit. deep) things, even as they have not learned that wisdom themselves.

(my translation)

This would seem to imply that "חכמי לב" refer to those who did the skilled labor in the Mishkan without being taught how to do it, but rather knew how to do it intuitively, with Hashem's help.

Almost whenever this idea was brought up, the speaker would mention that this actually makes a lot of sense -- after all, do we really expect that a nation of one time slaves, who were forced to do "back-breaking labor" (Shmos 1:14), would really have been taught by their masters to weave and work with gold and silver, and all of the other skilled labors that were needed for the Mishkan?

  • that's a nice pshat, but i'm asking something different. what is actual terminology being used here. what does a heart or wisdom have to do with being a skilled craftsman? Mar 10 '15 at 8:04
  • Having a heart of wisdom, according to Ibn Ezra, means that they had skilled knowledge without training...at least, that's how I read it.
    – MTL
    Mar 10 '15 at 14:15
  • I hope the feminists out there don't jump down my throat for this, but some of the Israelite women HAD to be skilled weavers. Who made all their clothes? The men?
    – Gary
    Mar 11 '15 at 23:45

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