WISDOM OF THE HEART
As an artist, there is something so special to me about this week’s Parsha.
The first time I read it I was filled with a mixture of surprise and delight. It comes to the part where G-d tells Moses who should be in charge of creating the Mishkan (the Ark for the commandments), the Menorah, the garments for Aaron the priest and a list of other sacred objects.
G-d singles out Bezalel and then mentions others, as having the essential trait of Chochmat Lev - “Wisdom of the heart” - and He says;
“I have filled him with the spirit of G-d, with wisdom, with insight, with Divine inspiration, and with the ability to do all types of work…”
It’s quite amazing. Hashem did not look for the most intelligent, the most skilled or the most productive of the community - he looked for those with Chochmat Lev. And then he filled them up with all the necessary qualities to carry out this immensely complex and creative work.
So what exactly is Chochmat Lev?
Chochmah is one of the Ten Sefirot (according to Jewish Mysticism these are ten aspects through which divinity enters our world). It is loosely translated as “wisdom”, but viewed through a Kabbalistic lense the hebrew word is much more complex. Chochmah captures the innermost point of inspiration, the first spark of an idea. It is linked to the energy of the first day of creation. It is a wisdom that perceives a greater picture; a capsule that holds within it the concept of everything to come. It is connected to the nothingness before it, and also to the ultimate fruition that will spring forth from it.
With this in mind, Chochmat Lev, is not so simply a “wise heart” but it is an inspired heart, an open heart, a heart with space for the possibility of the unknown to unfold within it. Bezalel and these other individuals had hearts that were humble vessels waiting to be filled, clear channels to receive holy instruction.
And now, is G-d telling us that if we have that quality He will be a player in each of our creative processes?
Some time ago I read “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. She does an amazing job of capturing the complications of creativity, and comes to the conclusion that there is a force beyond us which contributes to inventive output. Our power is in our commitment to the process and our faith in the “Magic”. Our job is to continue to honor our craft, to clear our channels and to show up for the work, whether the gift of the prolific is bestowed upon us or not.
As an artist reading this week’s Parsha, there is something so breathtaking and so reassuring in the realization that G-d will fill us up with all we need, when we foster this quality of Chochmat Lev. It implies, just as Gilbert suggests in her book, that for creative flow it is our presence and our clarity of heart that are of most importance.
The Parsha moves on to the construction of the Golden Calf. Moses goes up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments. In his absence the Jewish people lose hope and grow impatient. They ask Aaron to make them another G-d; They bring him the very gold off of their bodies in the hope of creating a new deity, and when the molten element is extracted from the fire it has taken on the form of the Golden Calf. When Moses returns and finds his beloved people in blasphemous worship, he shatters the stone tablets and burns the idol.
Here the Jewish people were trying to create an object of worship, but it was all about them. They created from a place of desperation. They created from a place of impatience. They were lonely artists driven by fear, and there was no space in their minds or hearts for that Holy inspiration to enter. These were not wise hearts, but blocked hearts, and the object they fashioned was a reflection of this.
The Inspired hearts of Bezalel and the Mishkan artisans vs the arrogant cheerleaders of idolatry. These two methodologies of creativity sit in stark contrast to one another.
There is the “Golden Calf” mentality - the creative process which is led by ego, one which is driven by desperation and fear. It may still yield a sparkly outcome, but it has no flow, no continuity, no life.
Then there is the “Chochmat Lev” creative process in which there is space for a Higher Level Participant. It yields the most sacred outcomes. It requires a heart which is open and clear, a vessel for inspiration that can channel a trickle of divinity into the physical form. It requires us to show up for the challenge and then sometimes to get out of our own way. It asks us to have humility and faith that the illumination will flow through us. This mode of creativity has a ripple effect of its own, generating something totally novel, stimulating joy and perpetuating the very holy essence from which it stemmed.
We are not all artists by trade, but we are all creators in our own unique ways; May we all be blessed to kindle some Chochmat Lev as we carve our way, and build the sanctuaries of our lives.