In honor of Shavuot– Leo Baeck on the meaning of Hokhmah

From Rabbi Leo Baeck, This People Israel, “The Revelation”

“Wisdom: Hokhmah and Sophia”

“The Hebrew word hokhmah is basically untranslatable; it was a word that received a completely new content from the spirit of this people. The first of the translations, the Greek, could only convey it through its word sophia, wisdom. But our word hokhmah reaches further and deeper. It speaks of that which is the power in the world and of that which human power shall be. As it bears upon the world, hokhmah, is the creative, artistic principle of the personal which has entered into him to give him the ability to see himself, which forms and fashions him so that he may become what he should be. Hokhmah expresses the final connection between that which continues its enduring influence in a world of constant flux and that which is constantly to influence onward-moving man. World and man as well as idea and reality, metaphysical and ethical, are united here. In the world, hokhmah is therefore that which gives it totality, which makes it the cosmos. In man, it is that which makes him a personality, that in which his creative traits find themselves united. Thus his drive for knowledge which turns toward everything, his breadth of feeling opening itself to all, and his moral readiness which accepts every task become one. Knowledge, feeling and desire, understanding, experience and action, in a sense, spirit and soul, are a totality in hokhmah. Man, coming into his own, the actualization of the total man, the fulfillment of God’s likeness is represented in it.”

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