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Updated: Jun 29, 2021

Howard Gardner transformed how we conceptualize intelligence. Until the 1980’s the predominant view was that there is one type of general intelligence that can be accurately captured in an intelligence test, and that IQ scores are typically predictive of overall “success.” In contrast, Gardner proposed a theory of multiple intelligences incorporating eight different types of intelligences, instead of just one. The eight intelligences span a large range of areas and include; linguistic (effectively using spoken and written language), logical-mathematical (analyzing), spatial (recognizing and manipulating patterns), kinesthetic (strategically directing one’s body to accomplish goals), musical, interpersonal (understanding and working well with others), intrapersonal (self-awareness and self-management), and naturalistic (understanding nature) intelligences. He later proposed a ninth type, existential intelligence, related to ideas of transcendence and concepts overlapping with spirituality.

This broader view of how to understand intelligence is evident when analyzing the design and creation of the priestly clothing in Parshat Tetzaveh. God tells Moshe to instruct those who are “chochmei leiv” to make the clothing for Aharon and his sons (Exodus 28:3). The words “chochmei leiv” can be translated literally as “wise of heart,” but what exactly does this prerequisite characteristic entail?

Ibn Ezra maintains that in the Torah, the leiv (heart) is the seat of wisdom. Consequently, calling someone wise of heart is just another way of calling someone intelligent. It is clear, though, that the intelligence required to make the clothing is not limited to a one-size fits all conceptualization. Using Gardner’s terminologies, it would minimally require logical-mathematical intelligence to compute the measurements, spatial intelligence to visualize the patterns, and kinesthetic intelligence to sew and weave.

Assuming a more popular distinction between heart and mind, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin contends that wise of heart cannot mean classical wisdom (chochma) because that is located in the brain, while the heart is the seat of emotion. Therefore, he suggests, wise of heart means possessing fear or awe of God (yirat Hashem). This emotional experience is felt in the heart and is known as the beginning of wisdom. Yet, it is clear from the fact that the Torah still denotes this emotional experience with the word chochma, that there is a component of intelligence within this emotional experience. The ability to harness and utilize our emotions to shape our behaviors is an integral part of Gardner’s intrapersonal intelligence and interpersonal intelligence (when it impacts others). The fact that chochma is contextualized within a spiritual framework relates it as well to existential intelligence.

Others assume a third explanation of “chochmei leiv” as meaning the ability to be mindful. Ramban presumes that the priestly clothing was required to be made “lishma” - with the proper intention. Seforno adds that the makers of the clothing needed to have in mind that the clothes will endow sanctity. Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg suggests that the clothing also needed to be made with specific intention as to who it was being made for (leshem baaleihem). According to these commentators it is clear that the craftspeople needed to be intrapersonally intelligent, with the ability to have the presence of mind, intentionality, and mindful awareness while performing various tasks.

The intelligences required of the craftspeople were diverse. They needed to have the intelligences related to the general skills of craftsmanship, as well as well-developed interpersonal, intrapersonal, and existential intelligences. Taking their lead, we should work to identify and utilize our own multiple intelligences and apply them to Divine service.


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