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PIRKEI AVOT 3:9 – WISDOM STARTS WITH FEAR

בס”ד

Pirkei Avot 3:9

רַבִּי חֲנִינָא בֶן דּוֹסָא אוֹמֵר, כָּל שֶׁיִּרְאַת חֶטְאוֹ קוֹדֶמֶת לְחָכְמָתוֹ, חָכְמָתוֹ מִתְקַיֶּמֶת. וְכָל שֶׁחָכְמָתוֹ קוֹדֶמֶת לְיִרְאַת חֶטְאוֹ, אֵין חָכְמָתוֹ מִתְקַיֶּמֶת.

הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, כָּל שֶׁמַּעֲשָׂיו מְרֻבִּין מֵחָכְמָתוֹ, חָכְמָתוֹ מִתְקַיֶּמֶת. וְכָל שֶׁחָכְמָתוֹ מְרֻבָּה מִמַּעֲשָׂיו, אֵין חָכְמָתוֹ מִתְקַיֶּמֶת

Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa said: anyone whose fear of sin precedes his wisdom, his wisdom is enduring, but anyone whose wisdom precedes his fear of sin, his wisdom is not enduring.

He [also] used to say: anyone whose deeds exceed his wisdom, his wisdom is enduring, but anyone whose wisdom exceeds his deeds, his wisdom is not enduring.

It reminds me of Proverbs 9:10

The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the L-rd,

And knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Coming from a different religious background, I had little fear of God. I translated “fear” with “awe” in most texts where it was mentioned. My viewpoint was that I didn’t want to be terrified of G-d because He is good and does good, therefore there was no reason to be. In fact, I considered “fear” of G-d as a negative trait that should be avoided.

Still, I don’t want to associate “fear” with the avoidance of wrongdoing because it may result in punishment. However, that is not an incorrect connection. After all, knowing the consequences of wrongdoing reduces your proclivity to sin. Consider drinking too much wine: you know it will cause you a headache, and you must decide whether you are willing to put up with it. “Fear” refers to the worry of hurting your relationship with G-d. That relationship is only possible if you live in accordance with His will, and you can only know how He wants you to live by studying it and then behaving accordingly. This

The second section of this Mishnah is a continuation of the first. You can learn a lot, but if you don’t put it to use, it’s useless. Only by action will you be able to cement what you have learned and therefore enhance your knowledge. However, if your actions are inconsistent with what you have learned, you will forget what you have learned far faster.


By Angelique Sijbolts

Sources

Texts: Sefaria.org

See also the blog: Parshat Vayeilach – Days of Awe: I’m Sorry

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