Wise Hearted / Chakham Lev – Cindy Elliott

HEBREW WORD FOR IYYAR – Being Holy ~ Being Whole


Infinite G-d seeks human heart to build a home together.

The angels glare in envy as the breath of G‑d descends below to become a human soul. Ripped out of the Infinite Light, it squeezes itself within meat and bones to experience that passion which belongs uniquely to earth below – and channel it towards its Beloved above. A new sort of love is born, a novelty to the cosmos and to its Creator: a fire within the human heart upon which the animal roasts, transformed to the divine. [2]

This midrash from Rabbi Tzvi Freeman’s always, always, always takes my breath away. How unfathomable a love. Such an incomprehensible desire. Beyond imagination – a heart fashioned small enough to fit in the body of a man yet big enough to be a home for the Eternal. Truly a marvelous thing!

Hebraically the heart is much more than the seat of emotions, it is also the seat of intellect and thought. It is the center of our values, character, attitudes… it is the irreducibly definition of who we are. Our heart is revealed in our thoughts, words, and deeds and is the deepest essence of our personhood. Though even the highest heaven cannot contain G-d (2 Chronicles 6:18) – when invited in – our heart is the place where G-d has chosen to make His home. It is where we respond and connect with our Abba.

In this new Rosh Chodesh cycle where we are looking at creativity and “Being Holy; Being Whole” – the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) is a special moment for us to have a glimpse into the hearts G-d chose to partner with Him in this act of creation.

Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution. (Exodus 25:2)

Scripture tells us that the contributions for the building of the mishkan were to be gifts, “from every man whose heart moves him.” In other words, the contributions were to be freely given. No force, no threats, no taxation. As Walter Brueggemann puts it, “Constructing an adequate place for the holiness of G-d is indeed human work, wrought in generosity.” [3] In other words it was to be a sanctuary constructed from the depth and breadth of the human heart. But the actual builders were to be wise-hearted and the women who spun the wool were to be nasa liban otana bechochmah – “those whose hearts lifted them up in wisdom.”

And every wise hearted among you shall come, and make all that the Lord hath commanded.
(Exodus 35:10 KJV)

It starts with Moses calling everyone who is “skilled” (Exodus 3:10) to come and make the various pieces that will become part of the mishkan – and one of the important things here is the way that “skill” is expressed in Hebrew. The Hebrew used in the Torah is chakham lev, which literally means “wise-hearted,” from the root word chokhmah, or “wisdom.” And so it’s not just about having good hands, say – it’s about something more profound than that. It is said that when G-d created the earth, G-d did so with chokhmah. It is no small thing, therefore, to demand that the people making the elements of the mishkan be chakham lev.

But what exactly is wisdom?

I have given you a wise (chakham) and understanding (binat) heart. (1 Kings 3:12)

From a spiritual perspective understanding of the heart is more important than that of the mind…binat ha’lev, “understanding of the heart.” The translation here is important. This is not the same as “an understanding heart,” which is outwardly focused and could be called empathy. It is rather “understanding of the heart,” which is inwardly focused and reflects spiritual intelligence, or what might be called wisdom. [4]

We know from Scripture that wisdom comes directly from the Lord – The Lord grants wisdom (Proverbs 2:6) – and from a right relationship with the Lord – The fear (awe) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111.10). This heart of wisdom comes through a right relationship and an intimate knowing. We see a beautiful picture of this in the name of the man G-d choose as the chief builder for the mishkan – Bezalel.


Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri…I have filled him with the Spirit of G-d in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship.” Exodus 31:1-3

Bezalel means “in the shadow of G-d.” So Bezalel lived in the shadow of the Eternal. A shadow is the reflection of the person or object from which the shadow is cast. When the person moves, the shadow moves. For the formation of a shadow, a light source is needed; and the closer one is to the light source the bigger the shadow that is cast.

We see also in the name of Bezalel’s assistant – Oholiab – a hint of relationship. Oholiab means “The Father is my tent.”

The pictograph of heart – lev / לב makes clear how important it is to have a right relationship with the Father.

Lev – heart – means the authority within.

The Hebrew word for for dog is ke’levk’ meaning “like” and lev meaning “heart.” So in Hebrew a dog is “like a heart.” The Hebrew word for puppy is k’lavlav and is considered a onomatopoeia for the sound of the heartbeat – so a puppy is “like a heartbeat.” Our little heart – Kirby – rescued my husband and I while we were still grieving the loss of a much loved furry baby and after our only child had left for college.

Though a dog’s heart is much different than our own – I have learned from our little heart how essential a right and close relationship is to “authority within” – within the heart / within the home. Training took time (and no Kirby is not always brilliantly behaved). We’ve had a fun time or two, such as when this little one chewed something that ended with a stay over at the veterinary hospital or when he decided to do a dumpster dive – a.k.a. our kitchen trashcan – that ended with a plastic container wedged on his head. However, this little heart has chosen to live under the shadow of my husband’s and my protection and to walk (well…most the time) by our rules and directions. This trust and submission only grew as we invested our hearts and love into this little heart of ours.

Blessed are you O’Lord our G-d King of the Universe. May we truly understand what it means to dwell in your shadow, in the secret place of intimacy with you. May our hearts rest in the place of your presence, the transforming power of your love, the unfathomable offering of your friendship. Abba may you be the shadow that overshadows us as we interact with others – as you did with Peter [6] bringing much needed tikkun olam to this broken world. Amen



Heaven is Your throne
The Earth is Your footstool
The highest heavens cannot contain You
Yet You make Your home
In the innermost chamber of my heart

Awaken my heart Abba
that I may love wholly
Stretch my heart Abba
so that I may give with unbound desire
holding nothing back

Abba may my heart be infused with your wisdom
Filled to utter fullness of You
Engulfed in Your Love
And connected to a purpose
Far beyond my own

Infinite and finite
Eternity and the present
Becoming one in Your loving heart
Fusing the eternal and the instant
Making my life a place that holiness can dwell
Holy, holy, holy.

~ Cindy

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, eternity he has set in their heart…
Ecclesiastes 3:11

1. photo credit: shutterstock.com
2. Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, Human Passion and the Envy of the Angels
3. Walter Brueggemann as quoted by Rabbi Shai Held in The Heart of Torah
4. David Ebenbach, the artist’s Torah, 99
5. photo credit – Israel Tourism photo by VuTheara Kham
6. Acts 5:15
7. photo credit: shutterstock.com

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