Serious learning takes real effort. That’s why people tend to resist any kind of structured learning unless they are motivated. The resistance to learning will be especially high if the material being learned calls for a change in behavior.
What does it take to become motivated? First of all, the student must appreciate the value of what he is learning. Otherwise, he will not overcome his instinctive resistance to learning. He must also have confidence that when he makes the effort, he will be rewarded with a degree of success in understanding what he has studied. The greater his expectation of success, the greater the effort he is willing to put in. If the student keeps in mind that the words he is studying are the very words his Creator has intended for him to know, those words will have great value for him. He will then be motivated to persevere in his efforts. If he does that, he will find success in his learning. The pleasure he gains from that success will motivate him to keep going and the new knowledge he gains will enable him to learn even more.
But the person who lacks reverence for His Creator and who objects to making any changes to serve Him, will lack the motivation to persevere. Rather than accept the blame for his failure he will be tempted to scoff at the knowledge itself, saying it is not relevant to his life or that he is not cut out for learning. That person is a fool for he does not realize that he has contributed to his own failure.
The motivation to acquire moral knowledge (Daas) depends on whether it is trusted and valued by the person who invests his effort in it. That makes the fear of Hashem an essential condition. But skeptics disdain the value of the wisdom that accompanies moral discipline and so they object to its restrictions.
יִרְאַת ה’ רֵאשִׁית דָּעַת חָכְמָה וּמוּסָר אֱוִילִים בָּזוּ
(7) The fear of Hashem is the essential first step for acquiring moral knowledge. But skeptics scorn wisdom and the discipline of mussar.
(7) The fear of Hashem — יִרְאַת ה
is the essential first step — רֵאשִׁית
for acquiring moral knowledge —דָּעַת.
But wisdom and the discipline of mussar needed to acqire it — חָכְמָה וּמוּסָר
are scorned by skeptics — אֱוִילִים בָּזוּ.
Since these foolish people object to the restrictions of moral discipline, they disdain the wisdom that accompanies it, and so they can achieve neither the wisdom or the discipline.
NOTE: The second segment in Chapter 1 of the book of Mishlei is identified by the proverb in posuk 1:7 and therefore it is referred to as Mishlei segment 01-07.
The primary sources used in the interpretation of this segment are listed below.
רש”י, רבינו יונה, רלב”ג, המאירי, מלבי”ם, הגר”א
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Mishlei 01-07 (Motivation) PDF version