This week’s Torah Portion is a double one called Vayak’hel – Pekudei. It is full of relevant stuff – it starts with an explanation of Shabbat, centers on the Israelite’s building the mishkan (a portable place for God to dwell among them) and the ordination of their priests and it ends with God’s presence settling on the mishkan.
As I am thinking about about what it takes to feel connected to community and to holiness in the middle of everything right now, I noticed that those tasked with building the mishkan are described by our text as those with “wise hearts.” Everyone in the community contributes gifts, everyone who’s hearts move them brings the building materials, so many gifts our tradition says, Moses has to shut it down. But the people who actually build the mishkan with those materials are all “wise-hearted.”
This could mean at least three things.
- In the ancient East, the words “heart” and “head” were the opposite of what we understand them to be in our world today. Head was where you felt things and heart is where you thought things. So in this way “wise hearts” could refer to intelligent people.
- Some translators understand this as a colloquialism meaning “skilled.” It would make sense that the folks that are building and sewing and working with metal are the skilled ones!
- My favorite thing about Torah is that we get to reinterpret it for our world today, and in our world today the heart is the center of feeling, it is where we focus our love. When I think of wise hearts, I think of social emotional intelligence. I think of caring and concern. I think of love for others.
As we continue to work our way through the current reality, as we continue to adapt and innovate and build community in a new way for the time being, let’s be wise hearted about it. Let’s be smart, use our skills, and be loving to those around us as we do.