‘The Wise in Heart’

Yael Eckstein  |  March 5, 2021

Yasmin Kalfa, field coordinator in the Be'er Sheva region, bringing Rosh Hashanah food box to Sofia Neiman. Elderly woman sitting on chair, black and blue dress, unpacking food box, IFCJ staff, white shirt, face mask, jar of honey

The wise in heart accept commands,
     but a chattering fool comes to ruin
. — Proverbs 10:8

We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.

There is a story told about a renowned rabbi in the 17th century who was ordered by the German-Roman Kaiser to present an accounting of everything that he owned. When the rabbi submitted his financial statement, the Kaiser accused him of lying. The Kaiser had personally gifted the rabbi with a castle that alone was more valuable than the statement handed in by the rabbi.

In response, the rabbi explained that he had been asked to list everything that he owned, but the castle was a gift that could be taken away at any moment. “Then what is recorded on this list?” demanded the Kaiser. The rabbi answered, “It’s a list of the charity I have given away. Only what I have given away is truly mine. Even the Kaiser cannot take that away.”

Scripture tells us that when the Israelites left Egypt, they “did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing… so they plundered the Egyptians” (Exodus 12:35-36). While the Israelites didn’t do anything wrong by acquiring valuable goods on the eve of their departure from slavery, the Jewish sages suggested that they went a bit overboard in the amount that they took and the time that they invested in obtaining them.

The Wise in Heart

In contrast, Jewish tradition teaches that while the rest of the nation was busy acquiring possessions, Moses used the time to perform a good deed — locating the remains of Joseph so that his body could be reinterned in the Holy Land as he had requested.

The Jewish sages quoted today’s verse from Proverbs in reference to this occurrence: “The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin.” Translated literally from the original Hebrew, the verse reads, “The wise in heart take good deeds…” While the Israelites were focused on taking possessions, Moses, who was especially wise in heart, acquired good deeds instead. Material possessions may serve a person during their lifetime, but our good deeds serve us for eternity.

Let’s keep this message in mind as we decide how to use our resources — especially our time and money. Let’s be sure to invest in our good deeds — the best investments we will ever make and the only things we have forever.

Your Turn:

Tune in this Sunday, March 7, to listen to the latest episode of my new podcast, “Nourish Your Biblical Roots.”

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