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Key Concepts of Mishlei 14-06 (Attitude)
A person must have the right attitude if he wishes to learn any subject, but especially if the subject is the wisdom of the Torah. The attitude that is called for is one of humility and respect for what is being taught. Because learning takes effort, some people are inclined to develop a negative attitude that will justify their lax behavior in their own minds. For example, they will unconsciously put everything in a humorous frame of reference so that nothing needs to be taken seriously and everything is fit for mockery and scorn. Such a person is referred to as a לֵץ (leitz), a scoffer.
Because he excuses himself from a commitment to learning, the leitz often has time on his hands. Thus, the typical leitz is an expert at frittering away his time in idleness.
However, there is a price to pay for the irresponsible life of mockery and idleness. That price is ignorance.
Learning is a process that takes time and wisdom must be absorbed to be of any value. When the leitz is in need of wisdom to resolve an important personal matter, he may try to call upon his store of acquired wisdom, but it won’t be there.
The process of acquiring wisdom involves building upon that which is taught by parents and teachers. Through the process of review and reflection the person gains insight and understanding, also known as בִּינָה , binah. He finds that the wisdom that he has acquired is easily accessible because he has internalized it and it has become part of him. The insightful wisdom that has become internalized in a person’s mind and heart is referred to as דַעַת (daas), knowledge. The individual who goes through the process of internalizing his knowledge is referred to as a נָבוֹן (navon), man of understanding.
(ו) בִּקֶּשׁ לֵץ חָכְמָה וָאָיִן וְדַעַת לְנָבוֹן נָקָל:
[When] the scoffer searches for wisdom there is none, but knowledge comes easily to the man of understanding.
This proverb compares the availability of wisdom to people with contrasting attitudes. The scoffer, who avoids learning will find that it is unavailable when he needs it. The man of understanding who has worked on acquiring wisdom and internalizing it will find it readily accessible.
Navigating Mishlei. Guidance on the process of acquiring Wisdom may also be found in Mishlei segment 04-02..
(ו) בִּקֶּשׁ לֵץ חָכְמָה וָאָיִן
וְדַעַת לְנָבוֹן נָקָל:
When the scoffer searches his heart for wisdom there is none — בִּקֶּשׁ לֵץ חָכְמָה וָאָיִן , but even the most intense knowledge comes easily to the man that seeks understanding — וְדַעַת לְנָבוֹן נָקָל .
A series of insights illuminating this proverb are presented below. The numbers identifying the insights refer to the listing of sources at the end of the segment.
(1) A person must have wisdom in his heart if he wishes to make use of it.
(2) The man of understanding has accustomed himself to wisdom through his efforts of learning and review. Thus, he is familiar with it and is able to call upon it when he needs it.
(3) The scoffer is engaged in two related activities that complement each other: mockery and idle conversation. The net effect is to distance him from wisdom.
(4) The process of internalizing wisdom is binah. It can be achieved only through fear of Hashem. A person who has no fear of Hashem will not receive the Divine help that he needs to link one thought to another and establish a concept in his mind.
(5) Not only is the scoffer unable to access new wisdom, in time he will lose any wisdom that he acquired.
The primary sources used for the additional insights illuminating this segment are listed below.
(1) – רש”י
(2) – מצודות
(3) – רבינו יונה, אלשיך
(4) – הגר”א
(5) – הגר”א, שבט מיהודה