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 1]
Key Concepts of Mishlei 08-01 (The Call of Wisdom) [8:1 – 8: 36]
Mishlei now returns to the idealized metaphor of Wisdom that was introduced in the first chapter (Segment 01-05). Wisdom is represented as an angelic spirit that expresses Hashem’s desires to every person, admonishing him to respect wisdom, acquire it, and act on it. Wisdom is essential to human existence and the voice of Wisdom is calling out to each and everyone of us, no matter where we are located.
The segment is presented in seven parts. After being re-introduced to the voice of Wisdom (Part 1), we hear that voice emphasizing the truth and authenticity of the wisdom that has come down to us (Part 2). We are taught that although we will be asked to exert ourselves to acquire wisdom, that effort will be very worthwhile and necessary. First of all, we need to realize its value as being far superior to any commodity we hunger after (Part 3). Secondly, we must be motivated by the fear of Hashem, because Hashem has chosen wisdom as His way of expressing the choice we need to make between good and evil (Part 4). Accordingly, His system of rewarding mankind for making the right choices in life are directly related to the wisdom that we need to guide those choices (Part 5).
The voice of Wisdom now reminds us of the role wisdom was given by Hashem in the Creation of the world (Part 6). Without a pre-existing wisdom, the world would not have been created and we would not exist. After Hashem created wisdom, He treasured it as a parent treasures an infant child; He interacted with it playfully in a loving relationship for He appreciated its depth and its wonders. In His goodness, Hashem then gave that treasure to mankind. It was His hope that mankind would appreciate this gift and recreate the same kind of loving relationship with wisdom.
Finally, Mishlei concludes with an admonishment to take these lessons to heart and act on them (Part 7), using the methods of mussar (moral discipline) to overcome the challenges inherent in acquiring wisdom and responding to its requirements.
PART 1. INTRODUCTION. As in Segment 01-05, the student of Mishlei is again advised to pay attention to the spirit of Wisdom that is calling him. She seems everywhere, but in truth, she is calling from within his own heart.
(א) הֲלֹא חָכְמָה תִקְרָא וּתְבוּנָה תִּתֵּן קוֹלָהּ: (ב) בְּרֹאשׁ מְרוֹמִים עֲלֵי דָרֶךְ בֵּית נְתִיבוֹת נִצָּבָה: (ג) לְיַד שְׁעָרִים לְפִי קָרֶת מְבוֹא פְתָחִים תָּרֹנָּה: (ד) אֲלֵיכֶם אִישִׁים אֶקְרָא וְקוֹלִי אֶל בְּנֵי אָדָם: (ה) הָבִינוּ פְתָאיִם עָרְמָה וּכְסִילִים הָבִינוּ לֵב:
(1) [My son,] is not wisdom calling you, and is not [the spirit of] understanding raising her voice. (2) [You can see her calling from] atop the heights along the way. The place where the pathways diverge, [that’s where] she is standing. near the gateways of the city, at the doorways she cries out: (4) “To you O men [of character] I call, but my voice [also goes out] to [all of] mankind. (5) [You] naive people, understand cleverness. [You] fools, understand [knowledge in] your heart.”
PART 2. THE TRUTH OF WISDOM. The voice of wisdom emphasizes that her words are directly relevant to her listener’s life.
(ו) שִׁמְעוּ כִּי נְגִידִים אֲדַבֵּר וּמִפְתַּח שְׂפָתַי מֵישָׁרִים: (ז) כִּי אֱמֶת יֶהְגֶּה חִכִּי וְתוֹעֲבַת שְׂפָתַי רֶשַׁע: (ח) בְּצֶדֶק כָּל אִמְרֵי פִי אֵין בָּהֶם נִפְתָּל וְעִקֵּשׁ: (ט) כֻּלָּם נְכֹחִים לַמֵּבִין וִישָׁרִים לְמֹצְאֵי דָעַת:
(6) Listen, for I will speak words of significance and the opening of my lips [will reveal] valid concepts. (7) For my palate, will utter the truth. Evil is an abomination to my lips. (8) All the teachings of my mouth [are presented] with a righteous [approach]. There is no twisting or distortion in them. (9) They are all correct [so that they can be relied upon] by the one who understands. They are straightforward to those who strive for knowledge.
PART 3. THE VALUE OF WISDOM. The value of wisdom surpasses the most precious metals for it helps you evade the trap of the yetzer hara (evil inclination) and make the right choices in life.
(י) קְחוּ מוּסָרִי וְאַל כָּסֶף וְדַעַת מֵחָרוּץ נִבְחָר: (יא) כִּי טוֹבָה חָכְמָה מִפְּנִינִים וְכָל חֲפָצִים לֹא יִשְׁווּ בָהּ: (יב) אֲנִי חָכְמָה שָׁכַנְתִּי עָרְמָה וְדַעַת מְזִמּוֹת אֶמְצָא:
(10) Take my mussar (lessons of moral discipline) rather than silver; take knowledge rather than choice gold. (11) For wisdom is better than pearls; all desires cannot compare to it. (12) I am wisdom; [where] I dwell [there is] cleverness. I find the knowledge of schemes [that are designed to trap you].
PART 4. THE MOTIVATION FOR WISDOM. The primary motivation for putting in the effort to acquire wisdom is the fear of Hashem. Hashem has determined wisdom as the measure of what pleases Him. Thus, to avoid antagonizing Hashem, one must be guided by wisdom. Accordingly, He will help those who seek wisdom to acquire it.
(יג) יִרְאַת ה’ שְׂנֹאת רָע גֵּאָה וְגָאוֹן וְדֶרֶךְ רָע וּפִי תַהְפֻּכוֹת שָׂנֵאתִי: (יד) לִי עֵצָה וְתוּשִׁיָּה אֲנִי בִינָה לִי גְבוּרָה: (טו) בִּי מְלָכִים יִמְלֹכוּ וְרוֹזְנִים יְחֹקְקוּ צֶדֶק: (טז) בִּי שָׂרִים יָשֹׂרוּ וּנְדִיבִים כָּל שֹׁפְטֵי צֶדֶק: (יז) אֲנִי אהביה אֹהֲבַי אֵהָב וּמְשַׁחֲרַי יִמְצָאֻנְנִי:
(13) [The acquisition of wisdom is motivated by] the fear of Hashem, which is the hatred of evil. [Wisdom declares:] I hate pride and haughtiness, and the way of evil. [I hate] a mouth that speaks with duplicity. (14) Counsel is mine and the eternal truth of the Torah. I am understanding; strength [of character] is mine. (15) Through me kings will reign; rulers will decree justice. (16) Through me government officials will administer, as well as officers of the courts and all who judge righteously. (17) I love those who love me; those who seek me will find me.
PART 5. THE REWARDS OF WISDOM. You will not be at a disadvantage if you dedicate your energies to learning Torah, for wisdom brings with great rewards from Hashem.
(יח) עֹשֶׁר וְכָבוֹד אִתִּי הוֹן עָתֵק וּצְדָקָה: (יט) טוֹב פִּרְיִי מֵחָרוּץ וּמִפָּז וּתְבוּאָתִי מִכֶּסֶף נִבְחָר: (כ) בְּאֹרַח צְדָקָה אֲהַלֵּךְ בְּתוֹךְ נְתִיבוֹת מִשְׁפָּט: (כא) לְהַנְחִיל אֹהֲבַי יֵשׁ וְאֹצְרֹתֵיהֶם אֲמַלֵּא:
(18) Wealth and honor are with me, great fortune and the good name of righteousness. (19) My fruit is better than gold, [even] fine gold. My produce is better than choice silver. (20) For I walk on the road of righteousness, within the pathways of justice, (21) to grant permanently [to] those who love me the existing [fruit of their own virtue]. And I will fill their storehouses.
PART 6. THE ORIGIN OF WISDOM. Wisdom is more ancient than the world. It is the very purpose and design of Creation. (See Mishlei Segment 03-05.) Even before mankind was created, wisdom was a source of joy to Hashem. He then passed on His precious gift to mankind.
(כב) ה’ קָנָנִי רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכּוֹ קֶדֶם מִפְעָלָיו מֵאָז: (כג) מֵעוֹלָם נִסַּכְתִּי מֵרֹאשׁ מִקַּדְמֵי אָרֶץ: (כד) בְּאֵין תְּהֹמוֹת חוֹלָלְתִּי בְּאֵין מַעְיָנוֹת נִכְבַּדֵּי מָיִם: (כה) בְּטֶרֶם הָרִים הָטְבָּעוּ לִפְנֵי גְבָעוֹת חוֹלָלְתִּי: (כו) עַד לֹא עָשָׂה אֶרֶץ וְחוּצוֹת וְרֹאשׁ עַפְרוֹת תֵּבֵל: (כז) בַּהֲכִינוֹ שָׁמַיִם שָׁם אָנִי בְּחוּקוֹ חוּג עַל פְּנֵי תְהוֹם: (כח) בְּאַמְּצוֹ שְׁחָקִים מִמָּעַל בַּעֲזוֹז עִינוֹת תְּהוֹם: (כט) בְּשׂוּמוֹ לַיָּם חֻקּוֹ וּמַיִם לֹא יַעַבְרוּ פִיו בְּחוּקוֹ מוֹסְדֵי אָרֶץ: (ל) וָאֶהְיֶה אֶצְלוֹ אָמוֹן וָאֶהְיֶה שַׁעֲשֻׁעִים יוֹם יוֹם מְשַׂחֶקֶת לְפָנָיו בְּכָל עֵת: (לא) מְשַׂחֶקֶת בְּתֵבֵל אַרְצוֹ וְשַׁעֲשֻׁעַי אֶת בְּנֵי אָדָם:
(22) [Wisdom declares:] I belonged to Hashem as the first of His way, before His works of old, [creating the world.] (23) I was consecrated [to reign] from the beginning of eternity. I was among [the creations] that preceded the earth. (24) I was formed when there were still no watery depths; when there were no pools abounding with water. (25) I was formed before the mountains were made firm, before the hills. (26) [I was formed] when He had not yet made the [core regions of] the earth or the outlying regions, or the first dust of the inhabited world. (27) I was there when He established the heavens, when He set a spherical shape to the face of the deep. (28) [I was there] when He braced the skies above, when he reinforced the wellsprings of the watery depths. (29) [I was there] when He set a boundary to the sea whereby the waters would not transgress His word, when He decreed the foundations of the earth. (30) [Before the appearance of mankind], I was His infant child. I was then His delight every day, frolicking before Him at all times. (31) Then, when man was created, I frolicked in the inhabited areas of His earth and became a delight to mankind.
PART 7. HEEDING WISDOM. The voice of Wisdom concludes by admonishing its audience to heed the lessons of wisdom, because in wisdom there is life and whoever rejects wisdom is allying himself with death.
(לב) וְעַתָּה בָנִים שִׁמְעוּ לִי וְאַשְׁרֵי דְּרָכַי יִשְׁמֹרוּ: (לג) שִׁמְעוּ מוּסָר וַחֲכָמוּ וְאַל תִּפְרָעוּ: (לד) אַשְׁרֵי אָדָם שֹׁמֵעַ לִי לִשְׁקֹד עַל דַּלְתֹתַי יוֹם יוֹם לִשְׁמֹר מְזוּזֹת פְּתָחָי: (לה) כִּי מֹצְאִי מצאי מָצָא חַיִּים וַיָּפֶק רָצוֹן מֵה’: (לו) וְחֹטְאִי חֹמֵס נַפְשׁוֹ כָּל מְשַׂנְאַי אָהֲבוּ מָוֶת:
(32) And now, children, listen to me. Fortunate are those who keep to my ways. (33) Listen to [the teachings of] mussar and gain wisdom. Don’t refuse [it]. (34) Fortunate is the person who listens to me, coming regularly to my doors every day, [returning again and again] to the doorposts of my entranceways. (35) For he who finds me finds life and gains the goodwill of Hashem. (36) But the one who sins against me does violence to his soul. All who hate me love death [because they are the enemies of life.]
PART 1. INTRODUCTION.
(א) הֲלֹא חָכְמָה תִקְרָא
וּתְבוּנָה תִּתֵּן קוֹלָהּ:
My son, think about what I have been saying about the call of wisdom (Segment 01-05). Surely you must hear it. Is not wisdom calling you — הֲלֹא חָכְמָה תִקְרָא ? And is not the spirit of understanding raising her voice — וּתְבוּנָה תִּתֵּן קוֹלָהּ – asking for you to pay attention? Wisdom appears to you openly in the light of day. She is not like the “strange woman”, the voice of temptation that approaches you at twilight (Segment 07-02), when your vision is clouded.
(ב) בְּרֹאשׁ מְרוֹמִים עֲלֵי דָרֶךְ
בֵּית נְתִיבוֹת נִצָּבָה:
You can’t evade the call of wisdom, for wisdom is part of you, implanted by your Creator. Wisdom comes to you from the sublime heights of Creation and so you can see her calling from atop the heights along the way — בְּרֹאשׁ מְרוֹמִים עֲלֵי דָרֶךְ , where you surely must see her. Each day when you have a choice to make, there at the place where the pathways diverge — בֵּית נְתִיבוֹת , that’s where she is standing — בֵּית נְתִיבוֹת נִצָּבָה – to advise you on the right choice.
(ג) לְיַד שְׁעָרִים לְפִי קָרֶת
מְבוֹא פְתָחִים תָּרֹנָּה:
As you gain in knowledge and understanding, you will find that wisdom follows a progression from broad concepts that are understood by all to ever more refined details and insights. This progression is symbolized by a natural movement of Wisdom’s call from the outer roadways to the area near the gateways of the city — לְיַד שְׁעָרִים לְפִי קָרֶת , where the courts are in session. And then finally at the doorways into the inner chambers of specialized knowledge, she cries out — מְבוֹא פְתָחִים תָּרֹנָּה :
(ד) אֲלֵיכֶם אִישִׁים אֶקְרָא
וְקוֹלִי אֶל בְּנֵי אָדָם:
I address myself especially to you, O men of character and education — אֲלֵיכֶם אִישִׁים , who have prepared yourself and focused your mind on what I have to say. Thus, it is to you that I specifically call — אֶקְרָא , for I know that you will be more receptive to my message and you will persuade others to follow you. But my voice also goes out to all of mankind — וְקוֹלִי אֶל בְּנֵי אָדָם , for each person should be prepared to absorb what I have to say to the best of his ability.
(ה) הָבִינוּ פְתָאיִם עָרְמָה
וּכְסִילִים הָבִינוּ לֵב:
You men of character and education, think are already wise and have nothing to learn, recognize that there are matters in which you are naive people, and that if you continue to pursue wisdom you will find more meaning and truth. Learn to understand cleverness — הָבִינוּ פְתָאיִם עָרְמָה – and see through the intellectual enticements of the yetzer hara (evil inclination). You fools, who hate knowledge, open yourself up to wisdom and learn to understand knowledge in your heart — וּכְסִילִים הָבִינוּ לֵב – so that you can use it to control your passions.
PART 2. THE TRUTH OF WISDOM.
(ו) שִׁמְעוּ כִּי נְגִידִים אֲדַבֵּר
וּמִפְתַּח שְׂפָתַי מֵישָׁרִים:
Listen, for I will speak words of great significance — שִׁמְעוּ כִּי נְגִידִים אֲדַבֵּר , that you will use to determine the direction of your life; they are not just entertaining analogies. And the opening of my lips will be to reveal valid concepts — וּמִפְתַּח שְׂפָתַי מֵישָׁרִים , not merely poetic allusions and figures of speech.
(ז) כִּי אֱמֶת יֶהְגֶּה חִכִּי
וְתוֹעֲבַת שְׂפָתַי רֶשַׁע:
For my palate, which is an essential instrument in articulating the sounds of speech, will utter the truth of Hashem’s Torah — כִּי אֱמֶת יֶהְגֶּה חִכִּי – that you can rely on to guide you in life. Evil is an abomination to my lips — וְתוֹעֲבַת שְׂפָתַי רֶשַׁע – and so you can be sure that I will not mislead you in false directions.
(ח) בְּצֶדֶק כָּל אִמְרֵי פִי
אֵין בָּהֶם נִפְתָּל וְעִקֵּשׁ:
All the teachings of my mouth are presented with a righteous approach — בְּצֶדֶק כָּל אִמְרֵי פִי , so that topics are arranged in a logical sequence and are consistent among each other. There is no twisting or distortion in them — אֵין בָּהֶם נִפְתָּל וְעִקֵּשׁ ; you will not be misled by poor organization of the material or inconsistencies.
(ט) כֻּלָּם נְכֹחִים לַמֵּבִין
וִישָׁרִים לְמֹצְאֵי דָעַת:
The fool who has not prepared himself to understand the teachings of the Torah may misinterpret them, but they are all correct and true so that they can be relied upon by the one who understands the subject matter — כֻּלָּם נְכֹחִים לַמֵּבִין . And they are straightforward to those who strive for knowledge — וִישָׁרִים לְמֹצְאֵי דָעַת – as long as they make a sincere effort to understand.
PART 3. THE VALUE OF WISDOM.
(י) קְחוּ מוּסָרִי וְאַל כָּסֶף
When you have a choice, put your efforts and your energy into acquiring my teachings rather than worldly goods. Take my mussar (lessons of moral discipline) as your currency rather than silver — קְחוּ מוּסָרִי וְאַל כָּסֶף . When you use silver to acquire goods you are likely to expose yourself to harm and aggravation. But mussar will bring you benefits in this world and the next.
וְדַעַת מֵחָרוּץ נִבְחָר:
Silver is only a currency, but gold is treasure, valuable for its own sake. But gold pales in comparison to knowledge. Take the treasure of knowledge rather than choice gold — וְדַעַת מֵחָרוּץ נִבְחָר . Gold gives pleasure only to the eyes, whereas knowledge of Hashem can pervade your entire being with spiritual joy.
(יא) כִּי טוֹבָה חָכְמָה מִפְּנִינִים
וְכָל חֲפָצִים לֹא יִשְׁווּ בָהּ:
Wisdom surpasses anything you can can buy for silver, even pearls. For wisdom is better than pearls — כִּי טוֹבָה חָכְמָה מִפְּנִינִים , with which you might try to gain favor in the eyes of men because of their attractive glow. In contrast, wisdom earns you favor in the eyes of both men and G-d. And even if silver can buy you physical pleasure, the value of all physical desires cannot compare to wisdom — וְכָל חֲפָצִים לֹא יִשְׁווּ בָהּ – for how can you compare something transitory with something eternal. (See Mishlei 03:15, Segment 03-04.)
(יב) אֲנִי חָכְמָה שָׁכַנְתִּי עָרְמָה
וְדַעַת מְזִמּוֹת אֶמְצָא:
Listen to me for I am wisdom — אֲנִי חָכְמָה ; where I dwell there is cleverness — שָׁכַנְתִּי עָרְמָה , to enable you to weigh the consequences of any contemplated action and help you unravel the designs of the yetzer hara (evil inclination) that lead you to sin. I offer you the ability to find the knowledge that you can gain only by patient analysis of the schemes — וְדַעַת מְזִמּוֹת אֶמְצָא – that are designed to trap you.
PART 4. THE MOTIVATION FOR WISDOM.
(יג) יִרְאַת ה’ שְׂנֹאת רָע
The primary motivation that will bring you to wisdom is the fear of Hashem — יִרְאַת ה’ , which will attune you to His will, so that you can apprehend the authority of His Torah and make the emotional commitment to study it. (See Mishlei 1:7, Segment 01-02) And what is the fear of Hashem in practice? It is the hatred of evil — שְׂנֹאת רָע , that is, the hatred of what Hashem hates.
גֵּאָה וְגָאוֹן וְדֶרֶךְ רָע
וּפִי תַהְפֻּכוֹת שָׂנֵאתִי:
[Wisdom declares:] I hate pride and haughtiness — גֵּאָה וְגָאוֹן [שָׂנֵאתִי] . Such an attitude is a direct challenge to Hashem. (See Mishlei 6:17, Segment 06-04). I hate the way of evil (a general pattern of bad middos) and I hate a mouth that speaks with duplicity, thereby provoking strife — וְדֶרֶךְ רָע וּפִי תַהְפֻּכוֹת שָׂנֵאתִי . (See also 6:19, ibid.)
(יד) לִי עֵצָה וְתוּשִׁיָּה
Without the wisdom of the Torah you will not be able to give effective counsel to yourself or to others. [Thus, Wisdom declares:] Counsel is mine — לִי עֵצָה , as well as the eternal truth of the Torah — וְתוּשִׁיָּה . Furthermore, I am understanding — אֲנִי בִינָה , for without a solid grounding in Torah wisdom, you will not be able to develop meaning insights.
Ultimately, wisdom will help you build the strength of character to resist the yetzer hara. [Thus, Wisdom declares:] strength of character is mine — לִי גְבוּרָה .
(טו) בִּי מְלָכִים יִמְלֹכוּ
וְרוֹזְנִים יְחֹקְקוּ צֶדֶק:
It is only through me that kings will reign properly — בִּי מְלָכִים יִמְלֹכוּ – and exert political power in a way that benefits their people. If a king does not observe the laws of the Torah, his reign will not endure. Similarly, it is only through me that political rulers will decree true justice — וְרוֹזְנִים יְחֹקְקוּ צֶדֶק .
(טז) בִּי שָׂרִים יָשֹׂרוּ
וּנְדִיבִים כָּל שֹׁפְטֵי צֶדֶק:
It is only through me that government officials will administer their duties effectively — בִּי שָׂרִים יָשֹׂרוּ . The same holds true for officers of the courts and all who judge righteously — וּנְדִיבִים כָּל שֹׁפְטֵי צֶדֶק .
(יז) אֲנִי אֹהֲבַי אֵהָב
Don’t be discouraged if you find learning difficult. I love those who love me — אֲנִי אֹהֲבַי אֵהָב . People who love each other think alike and share secrets with each other. If you have a positive attitude and you really care for me I will come closer to you and reveal my secrets at the same time that you come closer to me. Those who seek me will find me — וּמְשַׁחֲרַי יִמְצָאֻנְנִי – because Hashem will help them.
PART 5. THE REWARDS OF WISDOM.
(יח) עֹשֶׁר וְכָבוֹד אִתִּי
הוֹן עָתֵק וּצְדָקָה:
Don’t think that if you dedicate your energies to learning Torah, you will be at a disadvantage. On the contrary, if you learn sincerely you will find that wealth and honor are preserved with me — עֹשֶׁר וְכָבוֹד אִתִּי , if not in this World, then set aside for you in the World to Come. One way or the other, your wisdom will ultimately bring you great fortune and the good name of righteousness — הוֹן עָתֵק וּצְדָקָה .
(יט) טוֹב פִּרְיִי מֵחָרוּץ וּמִפָּז
The fruit of the wisdom that I have to offer is the basic knowledge which you acquire. My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold — טוֹב פִּרְיִי מֵחָרוּץ וּמִפָּז . Precious metals can be stored and admired for as long as you live in this world, but the knowledge that you gain through wisdom is available to you in the World to Come, as well.
וּתְבוּאָתִי מִכֶּסֶף נִבְחָר:
And when my wisdom is matured through review and reflection, it becomes like agricultural produce that has value in the marketplace. You will then find it comparable to choice silver which has value as a tool for conducting business. But my produce is even better than choice silver — וּתְבוּאָתִי מִכֶּסֶף נִבְחָר – because you can use matured wisdom to create new insights through logical deduction and analysis. These are worth far more than the things you can buy with silver.
(כ) בְּאֹרַח צְדָקָה אֲהַלֵּךְ
בְּתוֹךְ נְתִיבוֹת מִשְׁפָּט:
To acquire wisdom you must practice generous righteousness with all people. At the same time you must practice strict justice with yourself, placing the highest demands on your own behavior. For I walk on the public road of righteousness — בְּאֹרַח צְדָקָה אֲהַלֵּךְ . And I stay centered within the narrow pathways of justice — בְּתוֹךְ נְתִיבוֹת מִשְׁפָּט , where the individual veers neither to the right or left.
(כא) לְהַנְחִיל אֹהֲבַי יֵשׁ
You will find that the rewards of achieving wisdom follow the same principles as the requirements for achieving it. If you practice strict justice with yourself, then in the World to Come you will be granted what you have rightfully earned by your behavior. My policy is to grant permanently to those who love me — לְהַנְחִיל אֹהֲבַי , – the existing fruit of their own virtue — יֵשׁ . And I will fill their storehouses — וְאֹצְרֹתֵיהֶם אֲמַלֵּא – with generous bounty, far beyond what they have earned.
PART 6. THE ORIGIN OF WISDOM.
(כב) ה’ קָנָנִי רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכּוֹ
קֶדֶם מִפְעָלָיו מֵאָז:
[Wisdom declares:] I already belonged to Hashem as the first of His way of creating the world — ה’ קָנָנִי רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכּוֹ . In fact I was the essential instrument and purpose of Creation. I was His intent and His plan before His works of old — קֶדֶם מִפְעָלָיו מֵאָז .
(כג) מֵעוֹלָם נִסַּכְתִּי מֵרֹאשׁ
I was consecrated to reign from the beginning of eternity — מֵרֹאשׁ מֵעוֹלָם נִסַּכְתִּי . I was the first to be created among the creations that preceded the earth — מִקַּדְמֵי אָרֶץ .
(כד) בְּאֵין תְּהֹמוֹת חוֹלָלְתִּי
אֵין מַעְיָנוֹת נִכְבַּדֵּי מָיִם:
I was formed when there were still no watery depths, — בְּאֵין תְּהֹמוֹת חוֹלָלְתִּי ; when there were no pools abounding with water — בְּאֵין מַעְיָנוֹת נִכְבַּדֵּי מָיִם . This refers to the first stages of the earth’s emergence from formlessness. It was the spirit of Divine wisdom that hovered over the abyss before the separation of the elements of Creation.
(כה) בְּטֶרֶם הָרִים הָטְבָּעוּ
לִפְנֵי גְבָעוֹת חוֹלָלְתִּי:
I was formed before the mountains were made firm — בְּטֶרֶם הָרִים הָטְבָּעוּ in the midst of the waters. I was formed before the hills — לִפְנֵי גְבָעוֹת חוֹלָלְתִּי .
(כו) עַד לֹא עָשָׂה אֶרֶץ וְחוּצוֹת
וְרֹאשׁ עַפְרוֹת תֵּבֵל:
I was formed when He had not yet made — עַד לֹא עָשָׂה the core regions of the earth or the outlying regions — אֶרֶץ וְחוּצוֹת or the first dust of the inhabited world — וְרֹאשׁ עַפְרוֹת תֵּבֵל .
(כז) בַּהֲכִינוֹ שָׁמַיִם שָׁם אָנִי
בְּחוּקוֹ חוּג עַל פְּנֵי תְהוֹם:
When He established the heavens, I was there — בַּהֲכִינוֹ שָׁמַיִם שָׁם אָנִי . When He set a spherical shape to the face of the deep, I was there — בְּחוּקוֹ חוּג עַל פְּנֵי תְהוֹם . The world emerged into existence as a result of the forms and boundaries established through wisdom.
(כח) בְּאַמְּצוֹ שְׁחָקִים מִמָּעַל
בַּעֲזוֹז עִינוֹת תְּהוֹם:
I was there when He braced the skies above — בְּאַמְּצוֹ שְׁחָקִים מִמָּעַל . I was there when he reinforced the wellsprings of the watery depths — בַּעֲזוֹז עִינוֹת תְּהוֹם .
(כט) בְּשׂוּמוֹ לַיָּם חֻקּוֹ
וּמַיִם לֹא יַעַבְרוּ פִיו
בְּחוּקוֹ מוֹסְדֵי אָרֶץ:
I was there when He set a boundary to the sea — בְּשׂוּמוֹ לַיָּם חֻקּוֹ that the waters would not transgress His word — וּמַיִם לֹא יַעַבְרוּ פִיו . I was there when He decreed the foundations of the earth not to shift — בְּחוּקוֹ מוֹסְדֵי אָרֶץ .
(ל) וָאֶהְיֶה אֶצְלוֹ אָמוֹן
וָאֶהְיֶה שַׁעֲשֻׁעִים יוֹם יוֹם
מְשַׂחֶקֶת לְפָנָיו בְּכָל עֵת:
Before the appearance of mankind, I was like His sweet infant child — וָאֶהְיֶה אֶצְלוֹ אָמוֹן , I was then His delight every day — וָאֶהְיֶה שַׁעֲשֻׁעִים יוֹם יוֹם , frolicking before Him at all times — מְשַׂחֶקֶת לְפָנָיו בְּכָל עֵת . He enjoyed seeing me develop as a parent takes pleasure in watching his child discover what it can do. He took pleasure in seeing wisdom implemented in the acts of Creation.
(לא) מְשַׂחֶקֶת בְּתֵבֵל אַרְצוֹ
וְשַׁעֲשֻׁעַי אֶת בְּנֵי אָדָם:
Later, when man was created, I frolicked in the inhabited areas of His earth — מְשַׂחֶקֶת בְּתֵבֵל אַרְצוֹ and became a delight to mankind — וְשַׁעֲשֻׁעַי אֶת בְּנֵי אָדָם . Wisdom then became an essential component in the life of men and Hashem rejoiced in how mankind took to wisdom, meditated on it and acted on it.
PART 7. HEEDING WISDOM.
(לב) וְעַתָּה בָנִים שִׁמְעוּ לִי
וְאַשְׁרֵי דְּרָכַי יִשְׁמֹרוּ:
And now, children — וְעַתָּה בָנִים , now that you have heard about the great value of wisdom, listen to me — וְעַתָּה בָנִים שִׁמְעוּ לִי and don’t be lax about making the effort to acquire wisdom. Fortunate are those who keep to my ways — וְאַשְׁרֵי דְּרָכַי יִשְׁמֹרוּ , because these are the ways by which you will acquire wisdom.
(לג) שִׁמְעוּ מוּסָר
וַחֲכָמוּ וְאַל תִּפְרָעוּ
Listen to and obey the teachings of mussar (moral discipline). And then, once you have the fear of Hashem, you will be able to gain wisdom — שִׁמְעוּ מוּסָר וַחֲכָמוּ and fully apply it in your life. Do not refuse the message of wisdom — וְאַל תִּפְרָעוּ , which is to obey the laws of Creation. Do not give yourself over to unrestrained behavior.
(לד) אַשְׁרֵי אָדָם שֹׁמֵעַ לִי
לִשְׁקֹד עַל דַּלְתֹתַי יוֹם יוֹם
לִשְׁמֹר מְזוּזֹת פְּתָחָי:
Fortunate is the person who listens to me — אַשְׁרֵי אָדָם שֹׁמֵעַ לִי , coming regularly to my doors every day — לִשְׁקֹד עַל דַּלְתֹתַי יוֹם יוֹם , even when the doors are closed and the learning is difficult. But he perseveres and returns again and again to the doorposts of my entranceways — לִשְׁמֹר מְזוּזֹת פְּתָחָי . Then, if he persists, and approaches wisdom through its doorways, that is, its basic principles, he will gradually become fully versed in wisdom and will be able to live his life accordingly.
(לה) כִּי מֹצְאִי מָצָא חַיִּים
וַיָּפֶק רָצוֹן מֵה’:
For he who finds me finds life — כִּי מֹצְאִי מָצָא חַיִּים for then he finds Hashem, the Author of life. Hashem has bound up life with the wisdom He created. In this way, the person obtains the goodwill of Hashem — וַיָּפֶק רָצוֹן מֵה’ , Who grants the individual life and well-being. When the gates of wisdom open, the vision of wisdom that the person sees, invigorates him and fills him with new energy in both body and spirit.
(לו) וְחֹטְאִי חֹמֵס נַפְשׁוֹ
כָּל מְשַׂנְאַי אָהֲבוּ מָוֶת:
But the one who sins against me does violence to his soul — וְחֹטְאִי חֹמֵס נַפְשׁוֹ . All who hate me love death — כָּל מְשַׂנְאַי אָהֲבוּ מָוֶת . Since life is nourished by wisdom, the enemies of wisdom are the enemies of life, which means they are the allies of death.
The primary sources used in the interpretation of the verses of this segment are listed below.
א – המאירי, רלב”ג, חנוך לנער, מצודות, מלבי”ם
ב – מצודות, מלבי”ם
ג – מצודות, שבט מיהודה, מלבי”ם
ד – חנוך לנער, מלבי”ם
ה – חנוך לנער, הגר”א, מלבי”ם
ו – רש”י, רלב”ג, חנוך לנער,
ז – מדרש משלי, המאירי, מצודות
ח – חנוך לנער, הגר”א
ט – אבן עזרא, המאירי, רלב”ג, חנוך לנער
י – המאירי, רבינו בחיי, מלבי”ם
יא – רש”י, מלבי”ם,
יב – רש”י, המאירי, אבן יחייא, מצודות, מלבי”ם
יג – המאירי, מלבי”ם
יד – המאירי, חנוך לנער, מצודות, מלבי”ם
טו – רש”י, אבן עזרא, מצודות, מלבי”ם
טז – מצודות
יז – המאירי, מצודות, מלבי”ם
יח – אבן עזרא, המאירי, הגר”א
יט – מלבי”ם
כ – אבן עזרא, הגר”א, מלבי”ם
כא – אבן עזרא, הגר”א, מלבי”ם
כב – רש”י, אבן עזרא, המאירי, מצודות, מלבי”ם, רשר”ה
כג – המאירי, רלב”ג
כד – מלבי”ם
כה – רש”י, אבן עזרא, מצודות
כו – המאירי, מצודות, מלבי”ם
כז – רש”י, חנוך לנער
כח – אבן עזרא, רלב”ג
כט – אבן עזרא, המאירי
ל – רלב”ג, חנוך לנער, מצודות
לא – רלב”ג, מצודות, מלבי”ם
לב – רלב”ג, חנוך לנער,
לג – רש”י, חנוך לנער, מלבי”ם
לד – אבן עזרא, המאירי, חנוך לנער, מלבי”ם
לה – מדרש משלי, מצודות, הגר”א, מלבי”ם
לו – מצודות, מלבי”ם