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Jewish World Review
February 29, 2008
/ 23 Adar, 5768
Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
We usually think of wisdom as solely associated with the mind and brain rather than with the heart. This week's Bible reading reinforced by the author's decades of practical experience as a therapist teaches us otherwise. More importantly, why it matters
Every wise-hearted person among you shall come and
make everything that G-d has commanded.
Every wise-hearted woman spun with her hands.
He [G-d] filled them with a wise heart to do . . . every craft.
Bezalel shall carry out with Oholiab and every wise-hearted man
within whom G-d had endowed wisdom and insight to know
and to do all the work for the labor of the Sanctuary.
The wise-hearted among those doing the work made the Tabernacle.
The repeated references to the trait of ''wise-hearted'' cannot be without
On the verse, ''Every man whose heart inspired him came'' (Exodus
35:21), Ramban comments that none of the Israelites had learned the skills
necessary for the work of the Sanctuary and the vestments. However, because they
were intensely motivated to do the Divine will, they discovered that they were in
fact able to do the skilled craftsmanship. This might be interpreted as a miraculous
endowment of skills they had not had. However, the words of Ramban indicate that
it was not an endowment of something new. Rather, it was a discovery that they
had these skills within them.
This is an important lesson. Clinically, I repeatedly encounter people who are
not aware of their inherent skills and personality assets. In my writings on selfesteem
I point out that not only are many people oblivious of their personality
assets and potential, but even when these are pointed out to them, they persist in
denying them. One can only wonder why intelligent people are not able to accept
such factual information.
It is not uncommon in psychotherapy to repeatedly point out something to a
patient, but it does not have the slightest impact upon him. After regularly pointing
this out for a year and a half, there is a sudden insight. The patient may then
say, ''Doctor, I've been coming here for a year and a half. Why haven't you ever
pointed this out to me before?''
During the year and a half of therapy, when the therapist interpreted the
patient's symptoms, the patient said, ''I understand everything you've said, but
it doesn't make me feel any better.'' I can conclude only that intellect is subordinate
to emotion, and that intellectual knowledge that is not accompanied by emotional
knowledge is ineffective. If there are emotional factors that do not allow
a person to accept something about himself, whether it is something good or
something bad, no amount of intellectual information will register.
According to Ramban, this is what happened with the Israelites. Many people did
not have an inkling that they had the requisite skills for the intricate work in
crafting the vessels, vestments and curtains of the Sanctuary. But their devotion to
G-d and their desire to do His will resulted in ''their hearts being elevated in the
ways of G-d'' (II Chronicles 17:6). Their spirits soared, and the emotional fervor
enabled them to discover the skills within them.
We usually think of wisdom as associated with the mind and brain rather than
with the heart. We associate the heart with emotions rather than with wisdom. The
Torah repeatedly refers to the ''wise-hearted'' to indicate the overriding influence of
emotion over intellect, and that only when one's emotions permit can one implement
the powers of the intellect.
We have untouched reserves of both physical and mental abilities. Under conditions
of stress, people have been known to perform physical feats that they never
thought were within their capacities. There is reason to believe that some geniuses
were not of such superior intellect, but rather that their emotional investment
allowed them to fully utilize their potential.
This is an important principle in education. If we can stimulate interest and
desire for knowledge in children, they are likely to excel in their studies. A good
teacher is, therefore, one who can reach the students in a way that they become
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Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D. is a psychiatrist and ordained rabbi. He is the
founder of the Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh, a leading center
for addiction treatment. An Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University
of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, he is a prolific author, with some 30 books to
his credit, including, "Twerski on Chumash" (Bible), from which this was excerpted (Sales of this book help fund JWR).
© 2007, Mesorah Publications, Ltd.