For a few weeks now, the topic of wisdom has been on my mind. I have a good friend whom I just started doing some “formal” mentoring (ie. meeting on a regular basis for this specific purpose), and one of his main goals in life is to attain wisdom. This is a very noble goal, and one that I know he will (and already has begun to) achieve.
It seems that wisdom is an often desired middah (character trait), yet few know the secret of attaining this seemingly elusive trait.
Last week, as I was praying the daily Amidah, it occurred to me that both the mainstream of Judaism and the Apostolic Writings agreed by way of Hashem’s attitude towards His dispensation of wisdom.
You graciously endow man with wisdom and teach insight to a frail mortal. Endow us graciously from Yourself with wisdom, insight, and discernment. Blessed are You, Hashem, gracious Giver of wisdom.
This prayer makes use of the word “gracious” (from the Hebrew חן – chen) three times. It emphasizes that Hashem desires to freely give wisdom to all to ask. This, of course, corresponds to the words of Shlomo (Solomon) which state,
“I [wisdom] love those who love me, and those who seek me find me” (Mishlei/Proverbs 8:17).
“She [wisdom] will set a garland of grace [חן] on your head and present you with a crown of splendor” (Mishlei/Proverbs 4:9).
Hashem desires to give us wisdom “graciously”—freely, without reservation. However, we must first pursue wisdom and solicit Hashem for this precious gift. Ja’acov (James), the brother of the Master, gives us explicit instructions for seeking wisdom which corresponds with both the prayer from the Amidah and the words of Proverbs, saying:
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
If we seek wisdom, it is waiting to be received. But it doesn’t come uninvited. If wisdom has always been elusive, honestly ask Hashem for it and expect to receive it. No, you won’t wake up one morning and start spouting off the Pythagorean theorem1 like the Scarecrow on the Wizard of Oz (knowledge and wisdom are not synonymous). However, when that next difficult situation comes up, you will feel more confident in making the right decision with your newfound gift, graciously given by Hashem.
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
1 An interesting side note not related to my topic whatsoever is that in the Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow actually misquotes the theorem.
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