The Torah repeatedly describes Betzalel and Oholiab, the skilled craftsmen who construct the Mishkan, as “wise-hearted.” But isn’t wisdom normally associated with the brain, while kindness is linked to the heart? What does it mean to be “wise-hearted” and why is that the essential quality needed to construct the holy sanctuary for God?
Rabbi Zalman Posner explains that true righteousness requires both wisdom and heart. Some people are brilliant but cold. These intellectual giants are limited by arrogance from having a significant positive impact on the world. Others are naturally kind and giving, but overindulgence or lack of curiosity prevents them from doing much good.
“The ideal person is the wise-in-heart” who achieves “proper balance between emotion and thought, feeling and reason.” Superior intellect is not automatically linked to righteousness. Smart people can be bad people, and being good doesn’t require a high IQ. But when we work to harmonize the sharpness of our mind with the softness of our heart, we can become more effective servants of the Holy One, qualified to create Sanctuaries for Godliness here on earth.
Image: The Goldsmith (Bezalel) by James Tissot (detail) , c. 1900