וַיִּקְרָא, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה (ויקרא א:א)
Chazal explain that the reason there is a small alef in the word “Vayikra” is because Moshe Rabbeinu would not enter into the mishkan that he built until he was called. Based on this, Chazal learn that “Any talmid chacham who doesn’t have necessary understanding of what to do, a dead carcass is more valuable than him.”
Chazal tell us that Moshe Rabbeinu was the father of the prophets, the greatest of the prophets and the greatest teacher of Torah. Though those qualities would be unblemished, the lacking of da’as would make it all not worth the while.
Rav Yeruchum Levovitz, the mashgiach of the Mir Yeshiva, expands on this thought. He explains that without the proper qualities to use one’s knowledge and saintliness, one could bring about catastrophe, to the point that a carcass is less dangerous than the person whose knowledge is unbridled from wisdom.
In the secular world, we know there is an idea of “academic smarts” and “street smarts.” Both are needed.
There is a story told of a king who had a son who was very bright and was slated to be the next king. The king hired for him special tutors to teach him all of the knowledge that was necessary to be king: From engineering to mathematics, from literature to history. When they were finished and convinced that he knew it “all” the son was brought to the king to be tested. The king turned around, took off his ring, and put it in his hand. He asked his son “by feeling my hand only, tell me what is inside. The son felt the hand, thought for a minute, and said “It is something round.” The king said “Not enough! What is it?” The son felt and thought again and said “it is hollow in the middle.” The king was amazed that his child had advanced to such a degree, but pressed him further and the child responded “It must be a wagon wheel.” The king understood that although he may have learned all the sciences, he had no da’as.
The talmid chacham is expected to understand the Torah, be great in mitzvos and have outstanding midos tovos—but all this is not sufficient! If he can’t put it together to figure out what comes first and what comes second, then he is lacking the smarts to utilize his knowledge.
It took a Mordechai to figure out that the way to save Klal Yisrael was to stand in defiance of their arch-enemy Haman, a totally counter-intuitive move. But this da’as Torah was actually the catalyst of our eventual geula. When we daven every weekday: ata chonen l’adam da’as—we should be crying out to Hashem to help us use the information that we have properly.