In this week’s parashah, Hashem commands Moshe to gather “all the wise-hearted people whom I have invested with a spirit of wisdom” to make the priestly garments (Exodus 28:1).
But the Torah is unclear. Were these select people Divinely ordained with a spirit of wisdom for this particular mission, or were intrinsic “wise-hearted” people imbued with an extra “spirit of wisdom”? If the former is correct, then what did Hashem add? And if all their wisdom was divinely-gifted, then why didn’t Hashem simply ask Moshe to “gather all the people in whom I have invested a spirit of wisdom”?
Rav Sholom Shwadron, the Magid of Jerusalem, of blessed memory, once told a story about the famed Dubno Magid, Rabbi Yaakov Kranz.
The Dubno Magid once spoke in a town and a few maskilim (members of the enlightenment movement) attended. After the talk, one of the cynics, who was totally unaffected by the warm and inspiring message, approached the famed Magid. “The Sages tell us,” began the sceptic, “that words from the heart, penetrate the heart. Rabbi,” he snickered, “I assume that you spoke from your heart. Your words, however, have had no impact on me whatsoever! How can that be? Why didn’t your words penetrate my heart?”
Rabbi Kranz smiled. In his usual fashion, he began with a parable. “A simpleton once went by the workplace of a blacksmith, who was holding a large bellows. After a few squeezes, the flames of the smith’s fire danced with a rage. The man, who always found it difficult to start a fire in his own fireplace, marvelled at the contraption. He immediately went and purchased the amazing invention. Entering his home, he smugly announced, “I just discovered how to make a raging fire with the simple squeeze of a lever!” He set a few logs in the cold fireplace and began to push the two ends of the bellows together. Nothing happened. The logs lay cold and lifeless. Embarrassed, the man returned to the blacksmith and explained his predicament. “I want a refund!” he shouted. “This blower doesn’t work!”
“Are you for real?” laughed the experienced blacksmith. “You were blowing on cold logs! You must start a small fire on your own! If you don’t start with a spark, a fire will never erupt!” The Magid turned toward the maskil and shook his head sadly. “If there is no spark, the largest bellows will not make a fire.”
In telling Moshe whom to choose for the sacred task of designing the Mishkan, the Torah tells us how G-d invests. He wants people that were imbued with a ruach chochmah – a spirit of wisdom. But he prefaces the statement by telling us how one receives spiritual wisdom. The gift of spiritual wisdom does not go to just anyone. Hashem looks for those who have wisdom of the heart. Those who understand what it means to be kind, compassionate, and loyal. Those who have the devotion to His will and the desire for more enlightenment receive His ordination. The people who were imbued with Hashem’s Divine spirit previously had a spark. And from that spark grew a force – a Divine force – that propelled wise hearts into a Divine spirit of wisdom.
Hashem tells us that we must begin the process on our own. If we supply the heart, He will supply the power to have deep, spiritual, even holy insight. He will supply the force. Or, as the Medrash puts it, if we open up a hole the size of a needle, He will open up a hole the size of a large hall. Why specifically a needle? Because a needle makes an impression that, albeit small, is permanent.
Let’s make ourselves into worthy receptacles for Hashem’s wisdom.