Mishlei

June 20, 2006

[m]; “Sefer Mishlei;” The Book of Proverbs, one of the “Sifrei EMET,” where “EMET” is both an acronym and a specific and highly meaningful word. As an acronym, it stands for Iyov, the Book of Job, spelled in Hebrew with a leading “Aleph,” “Mishlei,” the Book of Proverbs, and “Tehilim,” the Book of Psalms. It is also the Hebrew word meaning “Truth.” And of course, it is no accident that the acronym chosen was the word for “Truth,” because these works epitomize for the Jew statements of truth about human life, about the relationship of human beings to G-d and about the relationships of human beings to each other.

The Book begins with an identification of its author; namely, “Shelomoh son of David, King of Israel” (Mishlei 1:1), who had been granted by HaShem, because Shelomoh was wise enough to ask for it (“Melachim”/Kings 1, 3:9), “a heart with the capacity to hear, to judge Your People, to distinguish between that which is good and that which is evil…”. And HaShem had granted him this wish (“Melachim”/Kings 1, 3:12), “…Behold I have given you a wise and insightful heart, the like of which did not exist before you, and will not exist afterwards.” It was with this wise and insightful heart that Shelomoh wrote this Book.

The Book proceeds from several fundamental definitions. “Wisdom” is identically equal with “Torah.” A person’s life must be lived according to the principles of “Mussar,” the moral philosophy of the “Torah,” and the pre-requisite attitude for a human being vis-à-vis his Creator is “Yirat HaShem,” awe and reverence for G-d, as the verse reads (Mishlei 1:7), “Fear of HaShem is the beginning of knowledge.”

A person may be confident that he will be rewarded for righteous behavior. In Mishlei 8:21 we find, “to bestow upon those who love Me ‘yesh,’ ” substance, as in “yesh me-ayin,” something out of nothing;” the reward will be one of true substance, something that has true existence.

Following in the ways of the “Torah” leads to a tranquil and blessed life (Mishlei 3:12), “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” The value of “Torah” is beyond that of silver and rubies (Mishlei 3:14-15).

“Use all your talents to know Him” (Mishlei 3:6) – the sweetness of your voice, the logical capacity of your mind, the intensity of your love.

In the final chapter, Shelomoh pays homage to the “eishet chayil,” the “woman of valor,” the industrious wife and mother as well as the feminine element in Creation, that inspires and brings forth all human creativity.

She, in both of the senses mentioned above, is able to synthesize wisdom and loving-kindness, as King Solomon expresses it, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue” (Mishlei 31:26). Therefore should “Her children rise up, and call her blessed; Her husband also, and praise her” (Mishlei 31:28). “Give her of the fruit of her hands; And let her works praise her in the gates” (Mishlei 31:31).