Chokmah: The Wisdom

Chokmâh (in Hebrew חכמה) is the Hebrew biblical word translated as “wisdom” in the English biblical versions (LXX σοφία sophia, Vulgate sapientia).
The word is found 149 times in the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible, and corresponds to the Arabic word ḥikma حكمة (Semitic root ḥ-k-m).

The Talmud (Shabbat 31a) describes the knowledge of the Talmudic order of Kodshim as a high level of wisdom, chokhmah. In Kabbalah, Chokhmah is the highest of the right side sephirot (kav yamin, the “Column of Mercy”) in the Tree of Life. It is at the bottom right of Keter, with Binah in front. Below it are the sephirots of Chesed and Netzach, and has four paths that go to Keter, Binah, Tifereth and Chesed.

The Proverbs identify the Divine Wisdom already existing before the world was created, revealed by GOD acting as an operator of GOD in creation (Prov 8, 22-31 ; Prov 3, 19 ; Wisdom 8, 4-6 ; Sir 1, 4-9). Wisdom dwelt with GOD (Prov 8:22-31; Sir 24:4; Sir 9:9-10) and being the exclusive property of GOD was as such inaccessible to human beings (Job 28:12-13; 20-1 and 23-27). It was GOD who “found” wisdom (Bar 3, 29-37) and gave it to Israel: “He discovered the whole way of knowledge and gave it to Jacob his servant and to Israel his beloved. Then he spread himself over the earth and conversed with men. (Bar 3, 36-37; Sir 24, 1-12).

Like a female figure (Sir 1, 15 ; Wisdom 7, 12), Wisdom addressed human beings (Prov. 1, 20-33 ; 8, 1 ; 9, 6) inviting to her feast those who are not yet wise (Prov. 9:1-6). Wisdom 7:22b ; 8, 1 is a famous passage that describes Divine Wisdom, including the passage: “For she is the breath of the power of GOD, and a pure influence that flows from the glory of the Almighty: therefore nothing contaminated can fall in her. She is in fact the luminosity of eternal light, the untainted mirror of the power of GOD and the image of his goodness. And being one, she can do all things: and remaining within herself, she makes all things new: and in all the times that enter holy souls, she makes them friends of GOD, and of the prophets. (Wisdom 7, 25-27). Solomon, as an archetype of the wise man, fell in love with Wisdom: “I loved her and sought her since my youth, I wanted to make her my husband, and I was a lover of her beauty. (Wisdom 8, 2).

According to Bahir: “The second (emanation) is wisdom, as it is written: Y-H-W-H welcomed me at the beginning of His journey, before His past actions” (Prov 8, 22). And there is no ‘beginning’, but wisdom”.

Chokhmah, the second of the ten sefirot, is the first power of the conscious intellect within Creation, and the first point of ‘real’ existence, since Keter represents emptiness. According to the book of Job, “Wisdom comes from nothing. This point is at the same time infinitely small, yet it encloses the whole being, but remains incomprehensible until it is given form and is created in Binah.
Chokhmah appears in the configuration of the lesefirot at the top of the right axis, and corresponds in the tzelem Elokim (“the divine image”) to the right hemisphere of the brain.

Chokhmah is associated in the soul with the power of intuition, like a flash of lightning through consciousness, Chokhmah’s “wisdom” also implies the ability to look deeply at aspects of reality and to perceive its conceptual essence until one can discover its truth in the depths. These seeds of truth can then be transmitted to Binah’s level for the sake of analysis and intellectual development.

Chokhmah is the primary force (“beginning”) in the creative process, Creativity, as they say: “You have done them all with Chokhmah”, also called Fear, “because it has no boundary measure, and therefore the mind has no power to grasp it” The book of Job states: “Behold the fear of GOD is Wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding” (Job 28, 28).

There are several aspects of Chokhmah:

The word Chokhmah itself can be divided into two words: koach (“potential”) and ma (“that which is”). So, Chokhmah means “the potential of what is”, or, “the potential to be”. This aspect of Chokhmah describes the state of Chokhmah in relation to Keter’s sefira. As Chokhmah emanates from Keter, the first dawn of “Infinite Light”, it “appears” in a dark and indefinite state that is a virtual non-being. Thus the verse states, “and Chokhmah emerges from nothingness”. (Job 28, 12) where the light of Ein Sof unifies in the world of Atziluth.

In the Zohar Chokhmah is the primordial point that shines from the will of GOD and, therefore, is the starting point of Creation.