Ata honen la-adam da’at…, You grant humans wisdom…
This berakha inaugurates the second section of the ‘amida, “Request” (baqasha), the blessings in which we ask God for our material needs. In this berakha we ask God to grant us “wisdom” or “intelligence”. But why asking “wisdom” before anything else?
Because without wisdom we will not be able to identify the gifts and blessings that we already have, which is essential for knowing what do we really need. We need wisdom, in addition, to differentiate between what we “need” from what we just “want” or “wish”. Moreover, without wisdom we will not even know “what” to ask from God. Or what to do with the blessings that God would eventually grant us. We might think that we need urgently money or success. But without wisdom, money and success might be counterproductive.
Additionally, this blessing teaches us a very important principle. “Ata honen…” means: YOU (=God)’ grant humans the gift of wisdom/intelligence. Intelligence/wisdom is God’s gift to the human specie. Our brain is remarkably similar to that of monkeys. Yet, we humans are endowed with “intelligence” which is not an extension of our biological make-up, and cannot be justified in evolutionary terms. Intelligence is not a biological natural feature like sight, hearing or a digestive system. Without intelligence we would be able, somehow, to survive as a specie. But we wouldn’t be able to connect with God, to learn or teach His Tora, or to choose between right and wrong. Intelligence is what make humans unique among all living species. In this berakha we assert that intelligence is a God-given, miraculous, supernatural gift humans were endowed with.
We ask God, the source of wisdom, to bestow upon us three types of intelligence
HOKHMA: Hokhma refers to creativity. The capacity a person needs to see or discover something new, when everyone is looking at the same things. The ability to develop a new idea. This is also, we say, a gift from HaShem
BINA: Once a new idea is discovered we need bina, practical wisdom to effectively apply an idea. Some people may be gifted with bina and not with hokhma, or vice-versa.
DA’AT: Da’at refers to the good “judgment” that we develop by life-experience. Yet, people differ in what or how they learn from experience. Some people are so gifted that they posses the ability to learn from other’s experiences. Some have the ability to learn from their own experience, and others have a hard time to learn even from their own experiences.
In all these intellectual fields, we say, we need HaShem’s assistance and inspiration.