The Call of Wisdom
[Pesukim 8:1 thru 8:36]
Mishlei now returns to the idealized metaphor of Wisdom that was introduced in the first chapter (Segment 01-20). 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 detailed concepts of wisdom in this chapter are presented in 36 pesukim, arranged in seven parts, as outlined here. For more insight into the pesukim that make up the chapter, refer to the Learning Mishlei section below.
Part 1. Introduction. As in Segment 01-20, the student of Mishlei is again advised to pay attention to the spirit of Wisdom that is calling him. That spirit seems everywhere, but in truth, it is calling from within his own heart. Depending on the context, Wisdom and Torah may be considered synonymous terms.
Part 2. The Truth of Wisdom. The voice of Wisdom emphasizes that its words are directly relevant to the listener. We now hear that voice emphasizing the truth and authenticity of the Torah wisdom that has come down to us. We are taught that although we will be asked to exert ourselves to acquire wisdom, that effort will be very worthwhile and necessary.
Part 3. The Value of Wisdom. First of all, we need to realize wisdom’s value as being far superior to any commodity we hunger after. The value of wisdom surpasses the most precious metals for it helps us evade the trap of the yetzer hara (evil inclination) and make the right choices in life.
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. He has chosen wisdom as His way of expressing the choice we need to make between good and evil. Thus, to avoid antagonizing our Creator, we must be guided by wisdom. Accordingly, He will help those who seek wisdom to acquire it.
Part 5. The Rewards of Wisdom. The system of rewarding mankind for making the right choices in life is directly related to the wisdom that we need to guide those choices. Accordingly, we are called upon to dedicate our energies to learning Torah.
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 03-19.) Even before mankind was created, wisdom was a source of joy to Hashem. He then passed on His precious gift to mankind.
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. In His goodness, Hashem then gave that treasure to mankind. It was His hope that mankind would appreciate this gift in the form of the Torah, and recreate the same kind of loving relationship with it.
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. We are asked to apply moral discipline (mussar) to overcome the challenges inherent in acquiring wisdom and responding to its requirements.
Part 1. Introduction.
א = הֲלֹא חָכְמָה תִקְרָא
וּתְבוּנָה תִּתֵּן קוֹלָהּ
(1) My son, think about what I have been saying about the call of wisdom (Segment 01-20).
Surely you must hear it.
Is not wisdom calling you — הֲלֹא חָכְמָה תִקְרָא?
And is not the spirit of understanding raising its voice — וּתְבוּנָה תִּתֵּן קוֹלָהּ –
asking for you to pay attention? Wisdom appears to you openly in the light of day.
It is not like the “strange woman”, the voice of temptation that approaches you at dusk (Mishlei 07-02),
when your vision is clouded.
ב = בְּרֹאשׁ מְרוֹמִים עֲלֵי דָרֶךְ
בֵּית נְתִיבוֹת נִצָּבָה
(2) 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 it calling from
atop the heights along the way — בְּרֹאשׁ מְרוֹמִים עֲלֵי דָרֶךְ,
where you surely must see it.
Each day when you have a choice to make, there at
the place where the pathways diverge — בֵּית נְתִיבוֹת,
that’s where it is standing — בֵּית נְתִיבוֹת נִצָּבָה –
to advise you on the right choice.
ג = לְיַד שְׁעָרִים לְפִי קָרֶת מְבוֹא פְתָחִים תָּרֹנָּה
(3) 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 — מְבוֹא פְתָחִים
into the inner chambers of specialized knowledge,
wisdom cries out —תָּרֹנָּה:
ד = אֲלֵיכֶם אִישִׁים אֶקְרָא וְקוֹלִי אֶל בְּנֵי אָדָם
(4) I address myself especially to you, O men — אֲלֵיכֶם אִישִׁים
of character and education, who have prepared yourself and
focused your mind on what I have to say.
Thus, it is specifically to you that I 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
(5) You men of character and education, think you are already wise
and have nothing to learn, recognize that there are matters in which you are
naive, and that if you continue to pursue wisdom you will find more meaning and truth.
So let the naive understand cleverness — הָבִינוּ פְתָאיִם עָרְמָה
and see through the intellectual enticements of the yetzer hara.
And you knowledge-hating fools — וּכְסִילִים
learn to understand knowledge in your heart — 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
(6) Listen, — שִׁמְעוּ
for I will speak words of great significance —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 — וּמִפְתַּח שְׂפָתַי
will reveal valid concepts —מֵישָׁרִים,
not merely poetic allusions and figures of speech.
ז = כִּי אֱמֶת יֶהְגֶּה חִכִּי וְתוֹעֲבַת שְׂפָתַי רֶשַׁע
(7) For my palate will utter the truth — כִּי אֱמֶת יֶהְגֶּה חִכִּי
of Hashem’s Torah 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
(8) A righteous approach — בְּצֶדֶק
is followed in all the teachings of my mouth — כָּל אִמְרֵי פִי
so that topics are arranged in a logical, consistent sequence.
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
(9) The fool who has not prepared himself to understand the teachings of the Torah may misinterpret them,
but they are all correct — כֻּלָּם נְכֹחִים
to be relied upon by the one who understands — לַמֵּבִין
the subject matter. And they are straightforward — וִישָׁרִים
to those who strive for knowledge —לְמֹצְאֵי דָעַת
as long as they make a sincere effort to understand.
Part 3. The Value of Wisdom.
י = קְחוּ מוּסָרִי וְאַל כָּסֶף וְדַעַת מֵחָרוּץ נִבְחָר
(10) When you have a choice, put your efforts and your energy
into acquiring my teachings rather than worldly goods or currency.
Take my mussar (lessons of moral discipline) — קְחוּ מוּסָרִי
rather than silver —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.
Silver is only a currency, but gold is valuable for
its own sake. But even gold pales in comparison to knowledge.
Take 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
(11) 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 3:15, Segment 03-13.)
יב = אֲנִי חָכְמָה שָׁכַנְתִּי עָרְמָה וְדַעַת מְזִמּוֹת אֶמְצָא
(12) 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 enable you to find the knowledge for analysis of schemes — וְדַעַת מְזִמּוֹת אֶמְצָא
that are designed to trap you.
Part 4. The Motivation for Wisdom.
יג = יִרְאַת ה’ שְׂנֹאת רָע
(13) 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 grasp the authority of His Torah
and make the emotional commitment to study it.
(See Mishlei 1:7, Segment 01-07)
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 06-16).
I hate the way of evil (bad middos) — וְדֶרֶךְ רָע
and a mouth that speaks with duplicity, provoking strife —וּפִי תַהְפֻּכוֹת שָׂנֵאתִי. (See also 6:19, ibid.)
יד = לִי עֵצָה וְתוּשִׁיָּה אֲנִי בִינָה לִי גְבוּרָה
(14) 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
and mine is the eternal truth of the Torah — וְתוּשִׁיָּה.
and 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
(15) 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
(16) It is through me that officials will administer effectively — בִּי שָׂרִים יָשֹׂרוּ.
The same for court officers and righteous judges — וּנְדִיבִים כָּל שֹׁפְטֵי צֶדֶק.
יז = אֲנִי אֹהֲבַי אֵהָב וּמְשַׁחֲרַי יִמְצָאֻנְנִי
(17) 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 be closer
to you and reveal my secrets at the same time that you are 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
(18) 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 וּתְבוּאָתִי מִכֶּסֶף נִבְחָר
(19) 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.
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
(20) 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 within the narrow pathways of justice — בְּתוֹךְ נְתִיבוֹת מִשְׁפָּט,
where the individual veers neither to the right or left.
כא = לְהַנְחִיל אֹהֲבַי יֵשׁ וְאֹצְרֹתֵיהֶם אֲמַלֵּא
(21) 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. [Wisdom declares:]
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
(22) [Wisdom declares:] I already belonged to Hashem — ה’ קָנָנִי
as the first of His way of creating the world —רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכּוֹ.
In fact I was the essential instrument and purpose of Creation.
I was His plan before His works of old — קֶדֶם מִפְעָלָיו מֵאָז.
כג = מֵעוֹלָם נִסַּכְתִּי מֵרֹאשׁ מִקַּדְמֵי אָרֶץ
(23) I was consecrated from the beginning of eternity —מֵרֹאשׁ מֵעוֹלָם נִסַּכְתִּי.
I was the first among the creations that preceded the earth — מִקַּדְמֵי אָרֶץ.
כד = בְּאֵין תְּהֹמוֹת חוֹלָלְתִּי אֵין מַעְיָנוֹת נִכְבַּדֵּי מָיִם
(24) I was formed when before the 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
(24) 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
(26) 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
(27) When He established the heavens, I was there — בַּהֲכִינוֹ שָׁמַיִם שָׁם אָנִי.
When He set a spherical shape — בְּחוּקוֹ חוּג
to the face of the deep, —עַל פְּנֵי תְהוֹם
I was there. The world emerged into existence as a result
of the forms and boundaries established through wisdom.
כח = בְּאַמְּצוֹ שְׁחָקִים מִמָּעַל בַּעֲזוֹז עִינוֹת תְּהוֹם
(28) I was there when He braced — בְּאַמְּצוֹ
the skies above —שְׁחָקִים מִמָּעַל.
I was there when He reinforced — בַּעֲזוֹז
the wellsprings of the watery depths —עִינוֹת תְּהוֹם.
כט = בְּשׂוּמוֹ לַיָּם חֻקּוֹ
וּמַיִם לֹא יַעַבְרוּ פִיו בְּחוּקוֹ מוֹסְדֵי אָרֶץ
(29) 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 — בְּחוּקוֹ
the foundations of the earth not to shift —מוֹסְדֵי אָרֶץ.
ל = וָאֶהְיֶה אֶצְלוֹ אָמוֹן
וָאֶהְיֶה שַׁעֲשֻׁעִים יוֹם יוֹם מְשַׂחֶקֶת לְפָנָיו בְּכָל עֵת
(30) Before the appearance of mankind,
I was like His 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
(31) 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
(32) And now, children — וְעַתָּה בָנִים,
listen to me —שִׁמְעוּ לִי
now that you have heard about the great value of wisdom,
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
(33) Listen to and obey the teachings of mussar —שִׁמְעוּ מוּסָר
And then, you will be able to gain wisdom —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
(34) 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 watch 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
(35) 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.
And so that 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
invigorates him and fills him with new energy in both
body and spirit.
לו = וְחֹטְאִי חֹמֵס נַפְשׁוֹ כָּל מְשַׂנְאַי אָהֲבוּ מָוֶת
(36) But the one who sins against me — וְחֹטְאִי
does violence to his soul —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.
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