click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Naso
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Kabbala #7: Chochma: Inspired Intellect

Kabbala #7: Chochma: Inspired Intellect

Out of the Ten Sefirot, chochmah, wisdom is the trait which allows creating something out of nothing, for it truly comes from "nowhere."


Let us now take a closer look at those of the Ten Sefirot that relate to the intellect.

Chochmah, "wisdom," is the "input" into the mind. It is the information we have been taught, or more so, the flash of inspiration -- when an idea pops into our head. The Tanya –- a Chassidic/Kabbalistic work describes chochmah as consisting of two Hebrew words: koach mah, meaning "potential." For chochmah is pure potential. It is an idea waiting to be developed.

Besides unlimited potential, chochmah has one other important characteristic -- it comes from "nowhere." Let us explain this.

The verse (in Job 28:12) states: V'chochmah me'ayin timatze?

The word me'ayin can be properly translated as "from where" or "nowhere."

One way to translate this verse is as a rhetorical question: "And wisdom from where can it be found." Meaning, that wisdom is hard to come by. But the Kabbalists read this verse: "And wisdom is nowhere found." This is because the word me'ayin can be properly translated as "from where" or "nowhere."

This means that it is not possible to intellectually inquire above the level of chochmah. God's activities may be researched, inquired, thought about and analyzed up to a certain point. Past this point intellectual understanding is impossible because higher aspects of God's providence simply do not come through intellectual channels.


Let us illustrate this point:

A rough draft of a play or essay is handed in editing. The editor is a professor who explains to his students editing process and how it is done. He explains that sentences and phrases constructed in a certain way convey a desired meaning, that a specific choice of words paints a certain picture and so on.

Editing is a logical technique that may be taught and explained to others. But then the author walks in and the students ask him, "How does one think of creative ideas?" Struggle as he might, the author is at a loss for an explanation. He may suggest different stimuli that evoked thought patterns and ideas, but there is no way that "creativity" can be explained in terms of logical processing. For the logical processing starts after the idea has come into being.

There is no way that "creativity" can be explained in terms of logical processing.

We are colloquially on mark when we refer to such thinking as "creative thought," in the sense that creation is an ex-nihilo process. It comes from "nowhere."

There is an early text known as "Targum Yonatan ben Uziel." (It is printed in many Hebrew editions of the Bible.) The author interprets the words "in the beginning God created the world" as "with chochmah God created the world" -- he interprets "beginning" as meaning chochmah. For chochmah is a beginning process.

Chochmah does not follow anything. It is that distinct moment of inspiration which comes out of "nowhere," and only then does it become logically fleshed out into full understanding and action (as we shall see when we examine subsequent Sefirot.)

March 18, 2000

Article 7 of 24 in the series Kabbala

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 9

(7) Susan Honeycutt, June 24, 2017 2:16 AM

Thought provoking...

"When the student is ready the teacher will appear."

(6) Shelley Friesenhahn, June 17, 2016 2:05 PM

I love this

It is answering a long standing question of the answer of something out of nothing. Which has been referred to how I make something put of nitjing. Thru the creator

(5) Anonymous, March 28, 2013 6:56 PM


Can someone please clarify how chochmah comes from nowhere. Isn't true inspiration or idea limited to ones experiences. And how is Job 28:12 interpreted as "And wisdom is nowhere found." when 28:28 tells us what wisdom is: "fear of the Lord"? The way I read this was that wisdom can be obtained by obedience.
Help in understanding would be much appreciated. thx

rakken, November 20, 2013 1:22 PM

Wisdom is relative

How I read it is that Job 28:12 can't be understood properly without Job 28:28 for the latter answers the former. They are connected.

Although a way to translate Job 28:12 is by using a rhetorical question the scripture can also be translated as a "Known Answer Question" where the answer is known before the asking of the question: "And wisdom from where can it be found."

The ambiguity of the word "me'ayin" with a paradoxical meaning: "from where" or "nowhere" can easily cause one to make errors by confusion. Which is it "nowhere" or "from where"?

With the wisdom that comes from the "Fear of the Lord" the answer is: Both

Wisdom comes from both "nowhere" and " from where".

The answer is found in Job 28:28 that states the "fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding".

Wisdom is from "nowhere" = If departing from evil is understanding then NOT departing from evil means no understanding and you can't fear the lord thru evil means. If wisdom is from fear of the Lord and you haven't departed from evil then where are you going to get wisdom? It comes from nowhere.

Wisdom is "from where" = The Lord. The fear of the Lord is wisdom. Kabbalah is - fearing the Lord where the Chochmah is at the top of the 10 Sefirot evidently God didn't conceal wisdom's whereabouts from those that fear him.

Also there is HIS wisdom and evil wisdom and God says there is no other wisdom besides HIS and categorized evil wisdom as ignorance hence, wisdom will be nowhere to be found.

(4) Elyshua, March 4, 2012 10:09 PM


It is interesting how according to Kabbalah "Wisdom' comes from a undefined "place", a moment we cannot mentally grasp. When people feel that spark of creativity, many times it does come from them being in surroundings of nature-a time when the mind is allowed to roam freely and disconnect from concrete thinking, thus opening up their "Channels" to tap into the "unknown".

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment