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 0]
Key Concepts of Mizmor 09-02 (The Rejection of Wisdom)
In the previous segment Mishlei told us about the earnest invitation that is broadcast far and wide by the “maidens” of Wisdom, that is by the prophets, wise men, and teachers of each generation. Now he prepares these messengers for their holy work by reminding them of the need to be selective. They must realize that there are two categories of people who will reject such an invitation, no matter how attractive it is and how well presented it is. First are the scoffers who pretend to listen to the lessons of Wisdom but look for any opening to undermine the effectiveness of any instruction. Second are the instigators who hate the truth and work openly to defeat it.
PART 1. REJECTION. The “maidens” of Wisdom are advised to restrict their efforts of persuasion to those who can benefit from wisdom. It is useless and counterproductive to teach wisdom to those who scoff at it and to the wicked people who are its enemies. In contrast, someone who has begun the process of acquiring wisdom will be grateful for the opportunity to improve himself further. Mishlei concludes this part by declaring that the key to the beginning of wisdom is the fear of Hashem. Without it, the individual will be attracted to the ranks of the scoffers and the instigators.
(ז) יֹסֵר לֵץ לֹקֵחַ לוֹ קָלוֹן וּמוֹכִיחַ לְרָשָׁע מוּמוֹ: (ח) אַל תּוֹכַח לֵץ פֶּן יִשְׂנָאֶךָּ הוֹכַח לְחָכָם וְיֶאֱהָבֶךָּ: (ט) תֵּן לְחָכָם וְיֶחְכַּם עוֹד הוֹדַע לְצַדִּיק וְיוֹסֶף לֶקַח: (י) תְּחִלַּת חָכְמָה יִרְאַת ה’ וְדַעַת קְדֹשִׁים בִּינָה:
(7) [There should be no invitation to wisdom for the scoffer [because] whoever corrects a scoffer brings [only] humiliation upon himself. [Likewise] whoever rebukes the wicked, [brings that person’s] defect [upon himself]. (8) Don’t rebuke a scoffer, lest he hate you, but rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. (9) Give [instruction] to a wise man and he will become even wiser. Teach a righteous man and he will increase in learning. (10) The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Hashem and [the beginning of] holiness is understanding.
PART 2. TO CHOOSE WISDOM. The spirit of Wisdom now concludes her invitation, encouraging those who can benefit from learning to step forward and make the effort. If they resist the distractions presented by the scoffers and instigators they will be rewarded in this world and the next.
(יא) כִּי בִי יִרְבּוּ יָמֶיךָ וְיוֹסִיפוּ לְּךָ שְׁנוֹת חַיִּים: (יב) אִם חָכַמְתָּ חָכַמְתָּ לָּךְ וְלַצְתָּ לְבַדְּךָ תִשָּׂא:
(11) [Wisdom says:] “For through me [the number of] your days will be increased and you will be rewarded with added years of life. If you become wise, you become wise for your own good. (12) And if you have scoffed, you alone will bear [the consequence].”
PART 1. WHO IS NOT INVITED?
(ז) יֹסֵר לֵץ לֹקֵחַ לוֹ קָלוֹן
וּמוֹכִיחַ לְרָשָׁע מוּמוֹ:
The “maidens” of Wisdom will not try to reform a scoffer because he who corrects a scoffer — יֹסֵר לֵץ , even by warning him of the punishment that awaits him, will fail. In fact the mentor who tries will only bring humiliation upon himself — לֹקֵחַ לוֹ קָלוֹן . The scoffer appears to be law-abiding but he uses humor to mock those who defend moral principles.
The “maidens” of Wisdom will not also not try to reform a wicked instigator because he who rebukes the wicked — וּמוֹכִיחַ לְרָשָׁע , even using the most powerful logic will fail. In fact he will acquire his defect — מוּמוֹ – for the wicked person is proud of his sins and turns the tables on his critic, accusing the righteous person of the very same behavior.
(ח) אַל תּוֹכַח לֵץ פֶּן יִשְׂנָאֶךָּ
Don’t rebuke a scoffer — אַל תּוֹכַח לֵץ , lest he hate you — פֶּן יִשְׂנָאֶךָּ . Don’t think he will be impressed by rational argument that proves your case. He may pretend to be receptive to logical reasoning, but that is only a cover. He thinks he is smarter than you. Deep down he hates you and will look for the oportunity to diminish you.
הוֹכַח לְחָכָם וְיֶאֱהָבֶךָּ:
But rebuke a wise man, and he will love you — הוֹכַח לְחָכָם וְיֶאֱהָבֶךָּ – for the wise man is always eager for self-improvement. In contrast to the scoffer, the wise man is humble and is convinced he has much more to learn.
(ט) תֵּן לְחָכָם וְיֶחְכַּם עוֹד
הוֹדַע לְצַדִּיק וְיוֹסֶף לֶקַח:
Give instruction to a wise man — תֵּן לְחָכָם – and he will become even wiser — וְיֶחְכַּם – for the wisdom that you have taught him will lead him to further development of thought. Teach a righteous man and he will increase in learning — עוֹד הוֹדַע לְצַדִּיק וְיוֹסֶף לֶקַח for his righteousness motivates him to add to his knowledge of the halachah.
(י) תְּחִלַּת חָכְמָה יִרְאַת ה‘
וְדַעַת קְדֹשִׁים בִּינָה:
The beginning of wisdom is fear of Hashem — תְּחִלַּת חָכְמָה יִרְאַת ה’ . The individual will give respect and obedience to the “maidens” of Wisdom (those who teach the Torah) only if he is filled with the emotions and attitudes of awe before Hashem. And the beginning of holiness is understanding — וְדַעַת קְדֹשִׁים בִּינָה , which comes through devoting time to study and reflectioin, so that knowledge of Torah becomes internalized and the individual is transformed.
(יא) כִּי בִי יִרְבּוּ יָמֶיךָ
וְיוֹסִיפוּ לְּךָ שְׁנוֹת חַיִּים:
[Wisdom says:] “For through me the number of your days will be increased — כִּי בִי יִרְבּוּ יָמֶיךָ . In consideration of your efforts to gain wisdom, you will be given the opportunity to learn more. Your greater knowledge will enable you to perform more mitzvos and you will be rewarded with added years of life — וְיוֹסִיפוּ לְּךָ שְׁנוֹת חַיִּים , years of prosperity and well-being in this world and years of eternal life in the World to Come.
(יב) אִם חָכַמְתָּ חָכַמְתָּ לָּךְ
וְלַצְתָּ לְבַדְּךָ תִשָּׂא:
“If you become wise — אִם חָכַמְתָּ , you become wise for your own good — חָכַמְתָּ לָּךְ , because you will be personally rewarded. And if you have scoffed, you alone will bear the consequence — וְלַצְתָּ לְבַדְּךָ תִשָּׂא . Your sarcasm will have no effect on the eternal truth of wisdom and it is you who will be punished for your sins, not the righteous people you have shamed.”
The primary sources used in the interpretation of the verses of this segment are listed below.
ז – רש”י, מצודות, מלבי”ם
ח -אבן עזרא, מצודות
ט – המאירי, מצודות
י – מצודות, מלבי”ם
יא – רש”י, חנוך לנער, מצודות
יב – מצודות, מלבי”ם