Azamra

Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE


PROVERBS CHAPTER 8

Following the vivid depiction in Chapter 7 of the allurements of the "strange woman" and the long-term havoc and destruction she wreaks, Chapters 8 and 9 round off the long "prologue" of the Book of Proverbs with a progression of four sections in praise of Torah wisdom: Proverbs 8:1-21; 8:22-31; 8:32-36 and 9:1-18.

Chapter 8, v 1: "Does not wisdom call and understanding put forth her voice." God has created this world of trial in which we live as a mixture of good and evil, and He has given us the freedom to choose between them. While the "strange woman" accosts us at every turn with her allurements, as we learned in the previous chapter, true Torah wisdom also "stands at the top of the high places by the way" and "cries out at the gates." If only we were to open our eyes, we would see that God's Torah also calls to us from every direction and out of every situation in which we find ourselves in life - except that most people are deceived by the superficial appearance of this world and fail to penetrate to the truth that underlies it.

V 4: "To you O men, I call." The wisdom of the Torah beckons to each and every one of us to draw closer.

V 5: "O you simple (PETHA'IM), understand prudence, and, you fools (KHESSEELIM), be of an understanding heart". The PETHI is the simple gullible person who is open to the allure of evil because he is inexperienced and knows no better. The KHESSEEL is one who has already succumbed to the desires of his heart. Wisdom calls out to both categories, because both can be redeemed - as opposed to the scoffer (LEITZ), on whom reproof is wasted (see below, 9:7-8).

Vv 10-11: "Receive My instruction and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies." Even those who have material wealth often do not enjoy it, and they certainly cannot take it with them when they leave this world. But Torah wisdom is a treasure of inestimable value since it not only benefits those who gain it in this world but also accompanies and sustains them in the world to come.

V 12: "I am wisdom, I dwell with prudence." - "once a person has learned Torah, prudence enters into him in ever matter" (Rashi).

V 15: "Through me kings reign and princes decree justice." Torah wisdom is the foundation of good government, if only the rulers would follow it!

V 17: "I love those who love me and those who seek me early shall find me". The Hebrew word for "shall find me" is YIMTZA-OON'NEE. It is written with an extra letter Nun (which has the mathematical value of 50) to indicate that those who seek Torah wisdom can attain the 50 Gates of Understanding (Rashi).

V 21: "That I may cause those who love me to inherit substance." The Hebrew word rendered as "substance" is YESH, meaning that which exists. YESH consists of a Yud (=10) and a Shin (=300). Based on this verse, the sages teach that "God will give each and every Tzaddik 310 worlds" (Sanhedrin 100a). This verse concludes the discourse that began in 8:1 speaking about the benefits that Torah wisdom confers.

Verse 22 opens a new section (PARSHAH PESUHAH) in which the Torah herself speaks to us directly in order to explain her position of supreme importance in the scheme of God's creation.

"HaShem created me as the beginning of His way."Seven things were created before the world was created: the Torah, Teshuvah (Repentance), the Garden of Eden, Gehennom (Hell), the Throne of Glory, the Holy Temple and the name of Mashiah" (Pesachim 54a).

V 30: "Then I was by him as a nurseling (AMON)." The surface meaning is that even before creation, the Torah was, as it were, God's favorite child. The Hebrew text alludes to the level of KETER, the Crown, because the Hebrew for "I was" is EKYEH, the divine name associated with KETER (cf. Exodus 3:14). AMON has exactly the same Hebrew letters as OOMAN, a "craftsman". Thus the Midrash teaches: "The Torah here says, I was the craftsman's tool of the Holy One blessed be He. Normally in this world when a king of flesh and blood builds a palace, he does not build it out of his head but consults a craftsman (OOMAN), and even the craftsman does not build it out of his head. He uses plans and diagrams in order to know exactly how to make all the rooms and corridors. So too the Holy One blessed be He looked into the Torah and created the world." (Bereishis Rabbah 1). Based on our verse, this Midrash is the source of the idea that the Torah is the "blueprint" of creation.

Verse 32: "And now, children, listen to me, for happy are those who keep my ways". The logical conclusion arising out of the preceding sections explaining the benefits of Torah wisdom and its august place in the scheme of creation is that we should heed the call of wisdom and do everything in our power to acquire it.

V 34: "Happy is the man who listens to me, waiting daily at my gates." The key to acquiring this most precious acquisition is to set aside regular study time every day. It is certainly worth it, "for he who finds me has found LIFE!!!"

CHAPTER 9

In parallel with the "strange woman", who has readied and bedecked her home and prepared a feast of love for those she seeks to entice (chapter 7 vv 14-18), Torah wisdom has also "built her house" and prepared a feast of "meat" and "wine" for those who have the good sense to go into her (chapter 9 vv 1ff).

V 1: "Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out her seven pillars." The Talmud (Shabbos 115a) identifies these seven pillars with the 7 days of creation (= the seven lower sefirot, which all emanate from HOCHMAH-wisdom). The Talmud (ibid.) also identifies them with the seven books of the Torah (the book of Numbers is considered to consist of 3 books, because the two verses in Numbers 10:35-36 are considered as a whole book in itself dividing what proceeds from what follows).

Another interesting midrash from Yalkut Shimoni on this and the following verse darshens them as alluding to the War of Gog and Magog: "her house" is the Holy Temple; the "seven pillars" allude to the seven year duration of this war; the meat and the wine (v 2) allude to the "meat of the warriors and blood of the princes of the earth" that Israel will then consume (Ezekiel 39:18), while the "maiden" whom wisdom sends out to invite everyone to the feast (v 3) is Ezekiel, whose prophecy about the War of Gog and Magog is more detailed than those of the other prophets.

V 3: "She has sent forth her maidens." - "Adam and Eve; another explanation: Moses and Aaron" (Rashi). Wisdom speaks to us in many ways, calling and appealing to us to heed her message.

Vv 4ff: "Whoever is simple (PETHI), let him turn in here." As discussed earlier, the wisdom of the Torah is a lifeline for the innocent and gullible.

V 7: "He who reproves a scorner brings shame on himself. Do not reprove a scorner lest he will hate you." It is futile to try to reprove the wicked and the scoffers, because they are set in their ways and not only will they not listen; they are also likely to turn on the one offering the reproof and tell him that he too is blemished. "This is a warning that it is forbidden to speak to those who seduce others from the straight path, not even to reprove them or to try to bring them to the Torah" (Rashi).

Vv 13ff: The lengthy "prologue" to Solomon's collected one-verse proverbs (which begin in chapter 10) ends with a final warning about the Woman of Folly, who also sits in a most prominent position in town seeking to entice the same simple, innocent gullible passers-by to whom true Torah wisdom seeks to throw a lifeline. "Stolen waters are sweet and bread eaten in secret is pleasant" (v 17) - "the taste of relations with an unmarried girl is not the same as the taste of another man's wife" (Rashi). What the simple fool does not realize is that "the dead are there and that her guests are in the depths of hell" (v 18). May God help us to come to our senses and realize where we are in this world!

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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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