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Mishlei 04-01 (Wisdom and Tradition)

Mishlei 04-01

Mishlei and Tradition

(04-01 thru 04-04)

Key Concepts

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 Book of 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. 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 gaining an understanding of middos, basic character traits.

(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

(1) Listen, children, — שִׁמְעוּ בָנִים
and take to heart the mussar מוּסַר
Hashem, our universal Father אָב 

Pay close attention וְהַקְשִׁיבוּ
because by learning this moral discipline
you will gain an understanding לָדַעַת בִּינָה
of middos, the basic character traits.

ב =  כִּי לֶקַח טוֹב נָתַתִּי לָכֶם תּוֹרָתִי אַל תַּעֲזֹבוּ

(2) For it is a good and precious possessionכִּי לֶקַח טוֹב
the wisdom that I have given to youנָתַתִּי 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 teachingתּוֹרָתִי אַל תַּעֲזֹבוּ
as though it were something cheap.

ג =  כִּי בֵן הָיִיתִי לְאָבִי רַךְ וְיָחִיד לִפְנֵי אִמִּי

(3) And do not reject my mussar, thinking that you don’t need
to be told what to do. Look at my example, forכִּי
I was firmly disciplined from my earliest youth even though
I was a favored son to my fatherבֵן 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 lad — רַךְ
and he loved my mother deeply.

Because I was her one son my father
treated me as if I was his only sonוְיָחִיד
when he was in the presence of my motherלִפְנֵי אִמִּי.

ד =  וַיֹּרֵנִי וַיֹּאמֶר לִי יִתְמָךְ דְּבָרַי לִבֶּךָ שְׁמֹר מִצְוֹתַי וֶחְיֵה

(4) He taught meוַיֹּרֵנִי
words of great wisdom and, because he loved me,
you can be sure that the wisdom he taught was for my benefit.
And therefore, I confidently pass it on to you:
he said to me וַיֹּאמֶר לִי,
Let my words brace your heartיִתְמָךְ דְּבָרַי לִבֶּךָ
to enable you to resist your base instincts.

Observe my instructionsשְׁמֹר מִצְוֹתַי
of proper moral and ethical behavior
that I pass on to you
you will liveוֶחְיֵה
a meaningful and rewarding life.”

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