For the week of Feb 19, 2000 / 13 Adar 5760
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 27:20 - 30:10
Haftarah: Ezekiel 43:10 - 27

Wisdom Is a Skill

Tell all the skilled men to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest (Shemot / Exodus 28:3).

Throughout the book of Shemot (English: Exodus), instructions for the making of all sorts of intricate articles are given. Items such as elaborate woven fabric, clothing, furniture, and utensils were required for God's service. It was not just anyone who could make these things. God commanded that only skilled craftsmen do this work.

The term used here for "skilled men" in Hebrew is literally "wise of heart." This is how God refers to craftsmen. These craftsmen were endowed with wisdom by God. We don't usually associate the making of things with our hands with wisdom. But it is this usage of the term that helps us understand what wisdom actually is.

When someone is skilled at something, they have the ability to bring together ideas and things in a way that works well. If someone is skilled at making clothes, for example, they know what materials are needed before starting. They know how to create or use a pattern. The garment they make will fit the person who will wear it, and it will fulfill the desired purpose.

A good craftsman is not focused on just one aspect of a thing. They need to be aware of innumerable details. So many things we need to do in life require skill. Focused attention on everything that affects or is affected by what we do is necessary.

If someone is unskilled at something, it is usually, because for one reason or another, they don't give enough attention to all the things involved.

I am currently teaching a skill to one of my daughters - driving. Learning to drive is not exceptionally difficult. You don't need to be a scientist to understand the rules of the road or the running of an automobile. You don’t need great strength to make a car go. What is needed is the giving of attention to very many things all at once. When someone gets behind the wheel of a car for the first time, what may seem so simple to a seasoned driver can be very overwhelming.

And what is it that causes most accidents? It is usually due to not being attentive to all that is necessary. Checking blind spots, making sure the vehicle is mechanically sound, and not driving under the influence of alcohol are just some of the many things to take into consideration. Ignoring any of one of these is not wise.

This is an illustration of how wisdom relates to life in general. Wisdom is a skill - the skill of living. It is knowing how to take into consideration everything that affects and that will be affected by what we say and do. A wise person, someone skilled in living, knows how to solve a problem while not creating several others as a result.

How is wisdom attained? There are many people who claim to be able to give you the life skills you need. But while there are many good things to be learned from others, true wisdom cannot be learned, it is a gift.

The verse quoted above recognizes that it is God who gives wisdom. The book of Mishlei (English: Proverbs) encourages us to cry out to God for wisdom. And God will give us the wisdom we so desperately need. As it reads in the New Covenant scriptures:

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (James 1:5).

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