“Observe therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, that when they hear all these statutes shall say: ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” (Devarim 4:6)
Rav Naftali from Rupshitz was known as a person who had little patience for those who were fools. In fact, he once said “I am sure I am not going to Gehinnom. All that they need to do is put me in Gan Eden next to one of those people!” (Though after a second he thought and said “That cannot be, as there are no fools (chasid shoteh) in olam habah”!)
In order to serve Hashem and be pious, many times ingenuity is necessary. The “holier than thou” approach is not necessarily the way to bring about a sanctification of Hashem’s name. On the contrary, many times being understated or even unnoticed can be a far greater Kiddush Hashem. Sometimes it is necessary to make the incident seem as if it did not happen. For example, when in a home in which the kashrus of the owners is questionable, a person has many options available. He could ask “What hechsher do you use?” Others may just ask for a glass of water. Some may ask “Can I have a plastic cup of water?” as they are afraid that the glass may not have been toiveled in a mikveh. There are those who may just say “Thank you, but I just ate at home.”
There is a story told about Rav Avraham Genekovsky. Not only was he a genius in Torah, but his interpersonal skills were truly extraordinary. For example, as a rebbe in a yeshiva, he once had to escort one of the students to a psychiatrist. As he was sitting in the waiting room, he saw a famous Talmud Chacham walk in – apparently for his own appointment with the psychiatrist. In a true act of chasidus, Rav Avraham jumped up and ran over to him asking “please do me a favor and don’t tell anyone you saw me here!” Another time he was sitting in the front of a bus when a women boarded and made her way to the empty seat next to Rav Avraham. He leaned over and said to her “I have crispadin”. The lady assumed that he must have some type of infectious disease, so she sat down in a different vacant seat, appreciating the courtesy of this fine rabbi. Someone who was there asked him “What did you say to the lady?” Rav Avraham responded “Chazal tell us that tzitzis are a shemira for not sinning. The Targum translates ‘tsitsis’ as ‘crispadin.’ Thus, what I said alluded to the fact that it would be best for us to not sit together on the same bench, and instead of making a possible chillul Hashem, a Kiddush Hashem was made.”
People like Rav Avraham are those who make the Jews the wonderment of all nation by fulfilling the Torah in an exacting way, yet at the same time they make those around them feel good. This is the ideal of being a “wise and understanding people”. When one uses his intelligence in order to create a sanctification of Hashem’s name and fulfill what Hashem wants from him, it truly becomes something that sets us above the rest.