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Mishlei 04-01 (Wisdom and Tradition) [4:1 thru 4:4]
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 04-01 (Wisdom and Tradition)
All wisdom originates with the Creator, our universal Father. He gave wisdom as a Divine gift to man and so began the tradition of wisdom being passed down from generation to generation, from father to son and from teacher to talmid. In the sefer Mishlei, Shlomo HaMelech assumes an active role in this tradition and so he frequently addresses the reader as “my child” or “my son.”
Exploring Mishlei
In this segment Mishlei calls upon the next generation of “children” to pay careful attention to his words of wisdom and to appreciate them. He emphasizes that although wisdom comes to each generation as a gift, its precious value should not be underestimated.
Mishlei then reminds his readers that he was also once a child and that he benefited greatly by the wisdom lovingly taught to him in his younger years. Since he was destined to be a king and was the only son of a beloved mother, great care was taken in assuring that the young Shlomo would receive true wisdom and especially the moral discipline (mussar) that would qualify him to be an honorable man and wise ruler of the Jewish nation during a time of its greatest glory.
Mishlei assures his readers that he is about to impart to them the same wisdom that was granted to him. He encourages them to abide faithfully to the demands of that wisdom and assures them that they will be rewarded with a meaningful and worthy life.
(א) שִׁמְעוּ בָנִים מוּסַר אָב וְהַקְשִׁיבוּ לָדַעַת בִּינָה: (ב) כִּי לֶקַח טוֹב נָתַתִּי לָכֶם תּוֹרָתִי אַל תַּעֲזֹבוּ: (ג) כִּי בֵן הָיִיתִי לְאָבִי רַךְ וְיָחִיד לִפְנֵי אִמִּי: (ד) וַיֹּרֵנִי וַיֹּאמֶר לִי יִתְמָךְ דְּבָרַי לִבֶּךָ שְׁמֹר מִצְוֹתַי וֶחְיֵה:
(1) Children, listen to the mussar of [Hashem, our] Father. Pay close attention to acquiring understanding [of middos], (2) for I have given to you a good possession. Don’t neglect my teaching. (3) For I was a favored son to my father, a tender [lad, an] only son [to him when he was] in the presence of my mother. (4) He taught me and he said to me, “Let my words brace your heart. Observe my instructions and you will live.”
Learning Mishlei
(א) שִׁמְעוּ בָנִים מוּסַר אָב 
וְהַקְשִׁיבוּ לָדַעַת בִּינָה:
Children, listen  שִׁמְעוּ בָנִים to me and take to heart the mussar of Hashem, our universal Father  מוּסַר אָב that I am teaching you. Pay close attention  וְהַקְשִׁיבוּ to it because by learning the moral discipline of mussar you will acquire an in-depth understanding  לָדַעַת בִּינָה of middos.
(ב) כִּי לֶקַח טוֹב נָתַתִּי לָכֶם 
תּוֹרָתִי אַל תַּעֲזֹבוּ:
For it is a good and precious possession  כִּי לֶקַח טוֹב , the wisdom that I have given to you  נָתַתִּי לָכֶם in this sefer. You are receiving it as a gift but you would have had to pay a very high price if you had to purchase it. Therefore, do not neglect my teaching — תּוֹרָתִי אַל תַּעֲזֹבוּ as though it were something cheap.
(ג) כִּי בֵן הָיִיתִי לְאָבִי 
רַךְ וְיָחִיד לִפְנֵי אִמִּי:
And do not reject my mussar, thinking that you don’t need to be told what to do. Look at my example, for — כִּי I was firmly disciplined from my earliest youth even though I was a favored son to my father — בֵן הָיִיתִי לְאָבִי . He expected much from me and demanded it because I was the son — בֵּן destined to be builder — בּוֹנֶה of the Bais HaMikdash. But his discipline was not unkind. I was a tender — רַךְ lad and he loved my mother deeply. Because I was her one son my father thought of me as if I was his only son — וְיָחִיד when he was in the presence of my mother  לִפְנֵי אִמִּי .
(ד) וַיֹּרֵנִי וַיֹּאמֶר לִי 
יִתְמָךְ דְּבָרַי לִבֶּךָ 
שְׁמֹר מִצְוֹתַי וֶחְיֵה:
He taught me  וַיֹּרֵנִי words of great wisdom and, because he loved me, you can be sure that what he taught wisdom was for my benefit. And therefore, I confidently pass it on to you: he said to me  וַיֹּאמֶר לִי , Let my words brace your heart — יִתְמָךְ דְּבָרַי לִבֶּךָ to enable you to resist your base instincts. Observe my instructions — שְׁמֹר מִצְוֹתַי of proper moral and ethical behavior that I pass on to you and you will live — וֶחְיֵה a meaningful and rewarding life.”
The primary sources used in the interpretation of the verses of this segment are listed below.
א – רש”י, רבינו יונה, המאירי, הגר”א
ב – רבינו יונה, המאירי, רלב”ג, חנוך לנער
ג – המאירי, חנוך לנער, מלבי”ם
ד – רש”י, מצודות, הגר”א, שבט מיהודה, מלבי”ם