A Wise And Understanding Heart

Dr. Jerome FreedmanWhen I was a boy of 13, I asked God for לֵב חָכָם וְנָבוֹן : “A wise and understanding heart to discern between good and evil.”

This was part of my Bar Mitzva (rite of passage) speech written by my Rabbi who is now long dead.

This prayer has stayed with me for more than 60 years, and hopefully, I have gained some wisdom of my own.

As I write and look at the source in the Old Testament in Kings 1 chapter 3, I am moved with a sense of gratitude that these words have stuck with me. According to the Bible, King Solomon had this conversation with God:

6. And Solomon said, “You have done Your servant David my father great kindness, as he walked before you in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; and You have kept for him this great kindness, that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as (it is) this day.

7. And now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of David my father; and I (am but) a little child; I do not know (how) to go out or come in.

8. And your servant (is) in the midst of Your people which you have chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.

9. Give (therefore) Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and bad; for who is able to judge this Your great people?”

10. And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.

11. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked for yourself long life; neither have you asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked the life of your enemies; but have asked for yourself understanding to discern judgment.

12. Behold, I have done according to your word; behold, I have given you a wise and understanding heart; so that there was none like you before you, nor after you shall any arise like you.

13. And I have also given you that which you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there shall not be any among the kings like you all your days.

14. And if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David did walk, then I will lengthen your days.”

You probably know that King Solomon was known for his wisdom. People from all over the kingdom would come to him to ask for his judgement.

One story goes that two women came to him who were fighting over a baby that they both claimed to have given birth to. King Solomon asked for his sword to divide the baby in half so that each women could have part of the baby. When he did this, the rightful mother shrieked and asked King Solomon to give the baby to the other woman.

You do know what King Solomon did, don’t you? He gave the baby to the rightful mother because only she would rather see the baby whole rather than cut in two.

Of course, when you are 13, you don’t look up things like this, and I can’t remember doing before today.

Hopefully, some wisdom has come through the pages of this blog. What do you think? Please share.

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  1. […]  and  nonjudgementally.” In my bar mitzvah speech, I remember asking God for “A wise and understanding heart to discern between good and evil.” Is this not the same teaching that Lissa got from her parents and her […]