Word of the Week

Chokhma, binah, and da'at



Today’s Hebrew study is ַa collection of nouns that complete each other. They are useful together, but separately only render a part of the picture. They are chakh’mah, biynahand da’atTranslated, they mean wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. They look like this:

חָכְמָה, בִּינָה, דַעַת

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 1:7).”

Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge are like a car.

Chokhma is like a car. It provides the vocabulary of concept. As children, we learn what a car is by seeing a car, then seeing many cars, and eventually internalizing the concept so that a green Volvo and a red Toyota are both cars.

Binah is a driver. He is the one that determines where the car will go.

Only when they are brought together with da’at will the car actually go somewhere.

“The biblical concept of knowledge means joined together.” — Rabbi Immanuel Schochet 

In Jewish thought, the three aspects cannot be separated, lest one loses the application of them.

“Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown (Proverbs 4:5-9).”

This pathway that we walk starts with getting wisdom. We need a vocabulary to build upon so that we can move from concept to knowledge. This happens in three steps.

First, I learn the vocabulary. God’s word became flesh. I hear the words, Messiah, Christ, Anointed One, and I begin to wonder what they mean. If that’s the end, I have gained wisdom alone—there is a Messiah.

Second, I read about Who this Messiah is. I read the Old Testament and learn what the prophets say and then discover that a Man named Jesus (Yeshua) in the New Testament fulfilled the prophecies in the Old Testament.

Third, I join this wisdom and knowledge with my soul, and I receive the Messiah into my heart.

If I stop at any point before this final step, I am not saved. I have the wisdom of the concept, I understand the concept and that this Man is the promised Messiah. But it takes an act of my will to make Him the Savior of my soul, where my knowledge becomes internalized and effective.

So why do so few Jews embrace their Messiah? Romans 11:25 answers that for us. It is so that Gentiles might also inherit the promises and salvation of God. We have become grafted into the root, and not the other way around.

“And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).”

Jesus knows (is joined to) me, this I love.


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