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    Practical wisdom – Ki Tissa

    Chapter 31 of Sh’mot tells us what a clever man the architect/craftsman B’tzalel was. He is described in verse 3 as filled with the spirit of the Lord, with wisdom, understanding, knowledge and craftsmanship.

    In the later Biblical period, the art of Wisdom (usually spelled in English with a capital W) had a more philosophical connotation. Here it is probably not theoretical or esoteric but practical – how to grasp the nature of the task and how to carry it out. In our sidra the task at hand is the building of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness which required a range of abilities.

    Rashi thinks that wisdom in this context is the kind of skill that one derives from others, and in that way this passage is the beginning of the notion of trade apprenticeship. However, the person had to have an inborn instinct too, coming forward as it were with the kind of native ability which an expert could recognise, shape and develop.

    Philosophical Wisdom on the other hand is probably what is implied in the haftarah of T’rumah (I Kings 5:26), which we read two weeks ago. There Solomon becomes a chacham, a wise man, thanks to the Almighty answering his request.

    At the end of the Book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) it is emphasised that Kohelet is a (philosophically) wise man and indeed the whole of Kohelet is the application of Wisdom to the governance of the kingdom, the universe and the individual.

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