Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Ki Sisa – Exodus 30:11-34:35
At times I envy people who can spend their lives studying. Learning new things, even useless ones, is as diverting as it is pleasurable. Then Parshas Ki Sisa reminds me about why wisdom exists:
“And G-d spoke to Moses saying, See I have called by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah and I have imbued him with the spirit of G-d . . . to do every [kind] of work.” (Shemos/Exodus 31:1-5).
This week’s parsha gives the mitzvah (loosely translated as commandment) of the half-shekel, deals with the last few items for the Altar, discusses the Sabbath, and relates the story of the Golden Calf.
Should you pursue knowledge for its own sake or for an ulterior motive? The first reason is cited as more purely intellectual and noble.
The Sages said every baby is taught the entire Torah while in its mother’s womb, meaning prior to being born, a baby absorbs the portion of wisdom G-d assigned it when its soul was at Mount Sinai. As the time of birth approaches, an angel strikes the baby on its mouth, causing it to forget what it has learned.
What a wasteful practice – wouldn’t it be better if it retained the knowledge and kept building on it?
R’ Yochanan said, “Anyone who is knowledgeable in Torah but does not put it into practice, it would have been better if he had not come into the world . . .”
To make sure I haven’t lost you: A baby gets wisdom in utero that is taken away before it is born and then is told not only to learn it again but to put it into practice. And if it doesn’t do this, it should not have been born in the first place. WOW!
Along comes Bezalel. The Almighty gave him the wisdom of how to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle) while in his mother’s womb. But the angel took it away so Bezalel had to re-learn all the construction techniques. If he had not built the Mishkan what would have been the point to the knowledge? Not using the knowledge would have left him in his unborn state. He might as well have stayed in utero.
Bezalel put his portion of G-d’s wisdom to work building a place where the Almighty could connect with His children. As I wrote about last week, the Mishkan unified the three realms of life.
Study is valuable, but only so far as you take what you have learned and apply it. You waste one of the Creator’s gifts when you acquire knowledge for its own sake.
When do you think pursing wisdom for no purpose is appropriate?