NOTE: For a PDF copy of this segment, please click here. This will enable you to print out the entire text of the article. [Rev 2]
Key Concepts of Mishlei 03-01 – The Continuity of Wisdom
In His kindness Hashem created man with the capacity to acquire wisdom in unlimited amounts. However, He intentionally made man a living organism whose store of wisdom is constantly deteriorating. It is our challenge to constantly work on preserving the continuity of our wisdom by reviewing it and linking new wisdom to the old. For the same reason we must integrate wisdom into our daily lives, practicing the lessons that wisdom teaches us and applying those lessons to every experience we encounter. The four verses of this segment explore these ideas:
(א) בְּנִי תּוֹרָתִי אַל תִּשְׁכָּח וּמִצְוֹתַי יִצֹּר לִבֶּךָ: (ב) כִּי אֹרֶךְ יָמִים וּשְׁנוֹת חַיִּים וְשָׁלוֹם יוֹסִיפוּ לָךְ: (ג) חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת אַל יַעַזְבֻךָ קָשְׁרֵם עַל גַּרְגְּרוֹתֶיךָ כָּתְבֵם עַל לוּחַ לִבֶּךָ: (ד) וּמְצָא חֵן וְשֵׂכֶל טוֹב בְּעֵינֵי אֱלֹהִים וְאָדָם:
(1) My son, don’t forget My Torah and let your heart guard My mitzvos. (2) For they will extend for you the length of [your] days, years of life and inner peace. (3) Don’t let kindness and truth forsake you. Bind them upon your throat. Write them on the tablet of your heart. (4) [Then] you will find favor and good sense in the eyes of G-d and man.
(1) Mishlei begins this chapter speaking to the reader in the Name of Hashem. Hashem tells us to preserve the continuity of His Torah by not allowing it to be forgotten. In conjunction with this mission we are reminded to safeguard our observance of His mitzvos so that we are constantly linking wisdom into every aspect of our daily lives.
(2) In the next verse Mishlei describes our reward for preserving the continuity of wisdom: Hashem will preserve the continuity of our lives and give us a long and peaceful life.
(3) Mishlei then reminds us that we will succeed in this endeavor only if we develop and preserve the continuity of our good middos (character traits), which are summarized by the concepts of kindness and truth. Kindness and truth must accompany us in everything we do, especially our words and thoughts. They must be like a necklace adorning our throat and an inscription on the tablet of our heart.
Navigating Mishlei. We have already seen the metaphor of wisdom as a golden necklace adorning the throat in Part 2 of Segment 01-03.
(4) Mishlei concludes the segment by remarking that every good word and thought promotes further continuity by eliciting favor in the eyes of Hashem and mankind.
(א) בְּנִי תּוֹרָתִי אַל תִּשְׁכָּח
My son — בְּנִי , even though you have begun to acquire the wisdom of My Torah, don’t become overconfident. You will quickly forget what you have learned unless you make an ongoing effort to study it and integrate it into your life. Don’t forget My Torah — תּוֹרָתִי אַל תִּשְׁכָּח .
וּמִצְוֹתַי יִצֹּר לִבֶּךָ:
And let your heart guard My mitzvos — וּמִצְוֹתַי יִצֹּר לִבֶּךָ so that when you do them, you will feel the enthusiastic joy of serving your Creator. That joy will make the mitzvos live for you and will help keep you from forgetting the Torah teachings in which the mitzvos are defined.
(ב) כִּי אֹרֶךְ יָמִים
וּשְׁנוֹת חַיִּים וְשָׁלוֹם
Preserve the continuity of My Torah and and My mitzvos for — כִּי if you do so, they will enable you to preserve the continuity of your own existence in this world. They will extend for you — יוֹסִיפוּ לָךְ the length of your lifespan of productive days — אֹרֶךְ יָמִים . And your life will not be marked by sorrowful events, but by years of fulfilled life and inner peace — וּשְׁנוֹת חַיִּים וְשָׁלוֹם .
(ג) חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת אַל יַעַזְבֻךָ
In order to preserve the continuity of My Torah and My mitzvos it is essential for you to develop and maintain the quality your middos, those that affect your relationship with other people and those that affect your relationship with Hashem. Don’t let your sense of kindness and your love for truth forsake you — חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת אַל יַעַזְבֻךָ .
קָשְׁרֵם עַל גַּרְגְּרוֹתֶיךָ
כָּתְבֵם עַל לוּחַ לִבֶּךָ:
Middos should be integrated into every aspect of your life. Bind them like a necklace upon your throat — קָשְׁרֵם עַל גַּרְגְּרוֹתֶיךָ so that the words you speak are words of kindness and truth. Write them on the tablet of your heart — כָּתְבֵם עַל לוּחַ לִבֶּךָ so that they inspire your every thought.
(ד) וּמְצָא חֵן וְשֵׂכֶל טוֹב
בְּעֵינֵי אֱלֹקִים וְאָדָם:
If you do this, you will find favor and good sense — וּמְצָא חֵן וְשֵׂכֶל טוֹב in the eyes of God and man — בְּעֵינֵי אֱלֹקִים וְאָדָם . Kindness to others will elicit favor in the eyes of other men, but more importantly in the eyes of Hashem for He rewards selflessness. Devotion to truth will elicit admiration in the eyes of man, but especially in the eyes of Hashem, who will reward you with a higher level of good sense and wisdom.
The primary sources used in the interpretation of the verses of this segment are listed below.
א – רש”י, אבן עזרא, אבן יחייא, מלבי”ם
ב – רש”י, מלבי”ם
ג – המאירי, הגר”א, שבט מיהודה, מלבי”ם
ד – רלב”ג, חנוך לנער, מצודות, שבט מיהודה, מלבי”ם