In my many forays into the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) there is one phrase that always peaks my interest.  Verse 17 comes after the son gets his inheritance, and after he wastes his substance “with riotous living.”  He is hungry, destitute, and in a field, hired to feed swine (a double insult).

“And when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger.’”

Various translations use words a bit different than the King James “when he came unto himself,” but the gist is generally that – when he “realized he had been foolish” (Easy Reading Version), or when he “came to his senses” (New International Version).  I ran across one today, however, that was new to me – the Orthodox Jewish Bible (isn’t the internet a wonderful thing!).  There, the phrase is: “When he came to his senses, his seichel told him….”  Well, of course I had to go look up the word “seichel,” which led me down one of those paths that a Google search can (isn’t the internet a God-awful thing!).

So, this one article I came across (which, oddly, does not cite the author) provides this:

“Seichel, then, connotes one’s ability to get right to the heart of a matter … cut through the irrelevant details, instinctively identify the essence of what needs to be done, automatically do exactly the right thing, solve problems in a timely manner to achieve practical, desirable, optimized results with the least amount of effort and the most amount of ordinary common sense.  Seichel deals more with unfailing intuition than it does with any form of intellectual reasoning.  But more than that, seichel is an intuition that employs practical knowledge and understanding of what works, as opposed to just “blind faith;” it falls into the same category as those attributes of an athlete that trainers claim” can’t be taught or coached – it’s just there!”

This of course lead to the question of where the young son’s seichel was when he asked for his inheritance, “took his journey into a far country,” and “wasted his substance with riotous living.”  But I think that is the point.  His common sense, his seichel, was always there, he had just suppressed it, overruled it, somehow shoved it into a dark corner or closet, and had succeeded in doing so until he “came to his senses.”

That, the suppression of the seichel, is, of course, the point at which most troubles start, and the recognition of and surrender to it (as with the younger son) is the point where the path heads back in the right direction.