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 04-03 (The Wisdom Road)
Mishlei compares the wisdom of the Torah to a road through life. Our mission is to faithfully stay on that road as we continue our journey. No one knows how long he will live but he hopes to accomplish much along the way. The more years he is granted, the more he can accomplish.
PART 1. LIFE. Mishlei begins this segment by assuring us that if we stay on the road of wisdom and practice self-discipline, we will be granted more years of life and they will be good years.
(י) שְׁמַע בְּנִי וְקַח אֲמָרָי וְיִרְבּוּ לְךָ שְׁנוֹת חַיִּים:
(10) Listen my son and take [to heart] my lessons. They will increase your years of life.
PART 2. CHOICES. However, while traveling along the main wisdom road, we will encounter many side-roads where we will need to make choices of direction, guided by the lessons which Mishlei has taught us. Typically these side-roads or paths involve personal judgment in social relationships.
(יא) בְּדֶרֶךְ חָכְמָה הֹרֵתִיךָ הִדְרַכְתִּיךָ בְּמַעְגְּלֵי יֹשֶׁר:
(11) I am instructing you in the way of wisdom. I am also guiding you in the paths of uprightness.
PART 3. STEPS. But what of the rough terrain that we can expect to encounter on the way? Mishlei offers further assurances to those who heed his advice. Our steps will be secure and we will not trip over unseen obstacles because our way will be illuminated by the light of the Torah.
(יב) בְּלֶכְתְּךָ לֹא יֵצַר צַעֲדֶךָ וְאִם תָּרוּץ לֹא תִכָּשֵׁל:
(12) When you walk, your steps will not be constrained, and when you run, you will not stumble.
PART 4. PERSEVERANCE. Mishlei concludes the segment by urging perseverance in maintaining the necessary discipline despite the challenges we encounter. We must be continually on guard and never relax our vigilance.
(יג) הַחֲזֵק בַּמּוּסָר אַל תֶּרֶף נִצְּרֶהָ כִּי הִיא חַיֶּיךָ:
(13) Hold fast to the discipline [of wisdom]. Don’t let go. Guard it for it is your life.
PART 1. LIFE.
(י) שְׁמַע בְּנִי וְקַח אֲמָרָי
וְיִרְבּוּ לְךָ שְׁנוֹת חַיִּים:
Listen my son — –שְׁמַע בְּנִי for you are dear to me and I care for your well-being. Therefore, take to heart my lessons — –וְקַח אֲמָרָי of wisdom and self-discipline. Pay close attention not only to the subject matter but to the words I use. If you do, they will increase your years of life — וְיִרְבּוּ לְךָ שְׁנוֹת חַיִּים . Your added years will be years in which Hashem eases your way through life and enables you to serve Him in joy.
PART 2. CHOICES.
(יא) בְּדֶרֶךְ חָכְמָה הֹרֵתִיךָ
I am instructing you in the way of Torah that leads to the perfection of wisdom — בְּדֶרֶךְ חָכְמָה הֹרֵתִיךָ . Torah is a single way because it is the key to your entire life of serving Hashem.
הִדְרַכְתִּיךָ בְּמַעְגְּלֵי יֹשֶׁר:
I am also guiding you — –הִדְרַכְתִּיךָ in the many paths of uprightness — בְּמַעְגְּלֵי –יֹשֶׁר that you must follow in your practice of mitzvos and middos. For example, there are three essential uses of personal judgment in social relationships and you need to know when to apply each one, depending on the circumstance (see Mishlei Segment 01-01):
(1) righteousness — צֶדֶק , going beyond the letter of the law.
(2) justice — וּמִשְׁפָּט , adhering to the exact requirement of the law.
(3) fairness — וּמֵישָׁרִים , acting in an equitable and balanced manner even when the law is not specific.
PART 3. STEPS.
(יב) בְּלֶכְתְּךָ לֹא יֵצַר צַעֲדֶךָ
וְאִם תָּרוּץ לֹא תִכָּשֵׁל:
You will be protected when you travel through life along the way of wisdom. When you walk — –בְּלֶכְתְּךָ on that way, your steps will not be constrained — לֹא יֵצַר –צַעֲדֶךָ by weariness and weakness. And when you run — –וְאִם תָּרוּץ in your eagerness to do what is right, you will not stumble — לֹא תִכָּשֵׁל .
PART 4. PERSEVERANCE.
(יג) הַחֲזֵק בַּמּוּסָר אַל תֶּרֶף
נִצְּרֶהָ כִּי הִיא חַיֶּיךָ:
Hold fast to the discipline — –הַחֲזֵק בַּמּוּסָר of wisdom and continue to work on perfecting your middos. Don’t let go — –אַל תֶּרֶף of your yiras Hashem even for a short while, for without it you cannot control your nature. Guard the discipline of the Torah and keep it in your heart, for in the spiritual sense it is your life — נִצְּרֶהָ כִּי הִיא חַיֶּיךָ . If you have stopped taking control of your bad middos, what purpose do you have in living?
The primary sources used in the interpretation of the verses of this segment are listed below.
י – רלב”ג, חנוך לנער
יא – המאירי, רלב”ג, מצודות, הגר”א
יב – אבן עזרא, רבינו יונה,
יג – רש”י, המאירי, רלב”ג, הגר”א, מלבי”ם