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 4]
Key Concepts of Mishlei 04-02 (Acquiring Wisdom)
Wisdom is a gift from Hashem, but it becomes effective only if you take personal possession of it. To acquire wisdom you will need to do what it takes to make it part of you. You will then see the difference in the way other people react to you. It will be as though you are wearing a valuable piece of jewelry which draws admirers to the person wearing it.
What does it take to acquire wisdom? (1) Learn and reflect upon what you have learned. Keep reviewing it so you don’t forget it. (2) Remain loyal to the Torah and develop your love for it. Then you won’t abandon it for other pursuits. (3) Get the help you need to acquire wisdom. Don’t expect to be able to do it on your own. (4) Draw wisdom into your daily life so that you are continuously interacting with it and making contact with it.
PART 1. LEARN AND REVIEW IT. Learn the wisdom of the Torah and reflect upon what you have learned. Keep reviewing it so you don’t forget it.
(ה) קְנֵה חָכְמָה קְנֵה בִינָה אַל תִּשְׁכַּח וְאַל תֵּט מֵאִמְרֵי פִי:
(5) Acquire wisdom, acquire understanding. Don’t forget; don’t deviate from the words of my mouth.
PART 2. BE LOYAL TO IT. Remain loyal to the Torah and develop your love for it. Then you won’t abandon it for other pursuits.
(ו) אַל תַּעַזְבֶהָ וְתִשְׁמְרֶךָּ אֱהָבֶהָ וְתִצְּרֶךָּ:
(6) Don’t abandon it and it will protect you. Love it and it will sustain you.
PART 3. GET HELP. Get the help you need to acquire wisdom. Don’t expect to be able to do it on your own.
(ז) רֵאשִׁית חָכְמָה קְנֵה חָכְמָה וּבְכָל קִנְיָנְךָ קְנֵה בִינָה:
(7) The beginning of wisdom is to acquire wisdom [from a teacher]. [Then] from your every acquisition [of wisdom] acquire understanding.
PART 4. INTERACT DAILY. Draw wisdom into your daily life so that you are continuously interacting with it and making contact with it.
(ח) סַלְסְלֶהָ וּתְרוֹמְמֶךָּ תְּכַבֵּדְךָ כִּי תְחַבְּקֶנָּה:
(8) Interact with with it. It will uplift you; it will honor you as you embrace it.
PART 5. A NOTICEABLE RESULT. As a result of your efforts the wisdom within you will change you and the effect upon you will be noticeable to all. (posuk 9)
(ט) תִּתֵּן לְרֹאשְׁךָ לִוְיַת חֵן עֲטֶרֶת תִּפְאֶרֶת תְּמַגְּנֶךָּ:
(9) It will place upon your head an accompanying aura of charm. It will provide you with a wreath of honor.
PART 1. LEARN AND REVIEW IT.
(ה) קְנֵה חָכְמָה
Learn diligently to acquire wisdom — –קְנֵה חָכְמָה so that it becomes your personal possession. A basic knowledge of the Torah is not enough. You must also engage in intense reflection to acquire understanding — –קְנֵה בִינָה and deep insight into what you have learned. If you fail to do all this, you are liable to forget the wisdom that you have acquired. Let your enhanced understanding guide you in the way you interact with other people. Don’t let your efforts into acquiring the detailed knowledge of mitzvos lead you to neglect the moral discipline and middos that are essential to fulfilling your mission in life.
וְאַל תֵּט מֵאִמְרֵי פִי:
Constantly review so that you do not forget — –אַל תִּשְׁכַּח your wisdom. Erroneous knowledge leads to erroneous action. It is essential that you do not deviate from the words of my mouth — וְאַל תֵּט מֵאִמְרֵי פִי , which you are liable to do if you have forgotten.
PART 2. BE LOYAL TO IT.
(ו) אַל תַּעַזְבֶהָ וְתִשְׁמְרֶךָּ
Remain loyal to the Torah and don’t abandon it — אַל תַּעַזְבֶהָ– when you are exposed to distractions that compete for your time. If you are loyal to the Torah it will protect you — –וְתִשְׁמְרֶךָּ from trouble. In the zechus of your wisdom, Hashem will be loyal to and you will receive His protection.
Love it — אֱהָבֶהָ with intense devotion so that you never grow weary of exploring it. In return it will sustain you — וְתִצְּרֶךָּ for you will be given the opportunity to find its inner meaning. And so you will achieve continued spiritual growth.
PART 3. GET HELP.
(ז) רֵאשִׁית חָכְמָה קְנֵה חָכְמָה
וּבְכָל קִנְיָנְךָ קְנֵה בִינָה:
The proper beginning of wisdom is to acquire wisdom — רֵאשִׁית חָכְמָה קְנֵה –חָכְמָה from a teacher because if you rely on yourself to discover wisdom you will open yourself to serious error. Once there is an error in your thinking you will find it difficult to correct. But getting wisdom from a teacher is not a passive process. You must put real effort into it for it is up to you to acquire your wisdom and you should even be ready to pay your way.
Once you have acquired some wisdom you must continually reflect upon it to gain further insight. Thus, from your every acquisition of wisdom you should proceed to acquire in-depth understanding — וּבְכָל קִנְיָנְךָ קְנֵה בִינָה . The acquisition of understanding is also an active process, which takes real effort. You may need to engage the help of a fellow student — chaver to help you through it by means of active give and take.
PART 4. INTERACT DAILY.
(ח) סַלְסְלֶהָ וּתְרוֹמְמֶךָּ
תְּכַבֵּדְךָ כִּי תְחַבְּקֶנָּה:
Continually interact with it — –סַלְסְלֶהָ and manipulate it with your thoughts as you explore nuances in meaning. You will discover multiple interpretations of the same text — drush, all of which have something to teach you. If you do this, it will uplift you — וּתְרוֹמְמֶךָּ , making you a better person. And if you learn the Torah with loving devotion, it will honor you — –תְּכַבֵּדְךָ by becoming part of you as you embrace it — כִּי תְחַבְּקֶנָּה .
PART 5. A NOTICEABLE RESULT.
(ט) תִּתֵּן לְרֹאשְׁךָ לִוְיַת חֵן
עֲטֶרֶת תִּפְאֶרֶת תְּמַגְּנֶךָּ:
It will place upon your head — –תִּתֵּן לְרֹאשְׁךָ an accompanying aura of charm — לִוְיַת חֵן , so that you will find favor in the eyes of people and they will want to be enlightened by your wisdom. It will also provide you with a wreath of honor — עֲטֶרֶת תִּפְאֶרֶת תְּמַגְּנֶךָּ . Your wisdom will be respected because people will recognize it as being authentic.
The primary sources used in the interpretation of the verses of this segment are listed below.
ה – רבינו יונה, חנוך לנער, מלבי”ם
ו – אבן עזרא, רלב”ג, חנוך לנער
ז – רש”י, המאירי, הגר”א
ח – רש”י, אבן עזרא, מצודות, מלבי”ם
ט – רש”י, אבן עזרא, רבינו יונה, אבן יחייא, חנוך לנער