Pirkei Avot, “Ethics of the Fathers,” states in chapter 6:6: “The Torah is acquired in 48 ways.” This week: Way #5, “An Intelligent Heart”
“Intelligence of the heart” is discernment, wisdom or even common sense. It is the capacity to see the difference between ideas in the Torah that appear to be similar, or to see a similarity in ideas that appear to be different. Or, it’s simply the ability to answer questions.
What’s the difference between Jacob the good son and Esau the bad son? Some of Jacob’s behavior appears puzzling and some of Esau’s seems positive. Yet, the two brothers are on opposite poles. Why? How so? It takes discernment.
What is the similarity between the ban on eating pork and on wearing clothes woven of wool and linen? The answer is not obvious. It takes discernment.
Why is Moses, the supreme leader of the Jewish people, denied by G-d the fulfillment of his dream, entry into the promised land?
Why are murder and eating bread on Passover each classified as one of the worst transgressions? Isn’t murder far worse?
Questions multiply. The Torah is not for the simple-minded. Why is the Sabbath built into the cosmos, coming around every seventh day, but the other holy days — Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover, Shavuot — are scheduled based on which day witnesses see the new moon in the sky?
Sabbath timing: It’s G-d’s work. Holiday timing: It’s humanity’s work. Why?
And why is “remember!” mentioned 169 times in the Torah (Tanach)?
Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi wrote, “only in Israel and nowhere else is the injunction to remember felt as a religious imperative to an entire people.”
Why are the Jews a remembering people?
The Torah is full of challenges: intellectual, spiritual, ethical, introspective. To figure them out, intelligence is needed.
The fifth way to acquire the Torah: Intelligence of the Heart.
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