Mishlei: Finding My Place In Torah
“For only if you call out to understanding and give forth your voice to discernment, if you seek it as if it were silver, if you search for it as if it were hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of God, and discover the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:3-5)
We describe people as a, “Yarei Shamayim,” or, one who is in awe of God. I also hear people deliver the ultimate insult by saying, “He has no Yirat Shamayim.” I have never hear someone described as, “An understander of awe of God,” or, “he has no understanding of awe of God.” Yet, Solomon does not say that the seeker of wisdom will become a person who is in awe of God, but that he will understand awe of God.
Maimonides teaches that Knowledge of God precedes and develops into awe. Yet, Solomon seems to be saying that awe comes first, and only then the knowledge of God. We must also note that Solomon teaches that knowledge of God is a discovery, not an achievement.
Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlop explains that the seeker of knowledge (opening verse above) will understand that he must become one who fears God, and as he strives to attain awe, he will receive knowledge of God as a gift. He will find it only after heaven provides the revelation of knowledge. (Mei Marom – Volume 14 – Mishlei, Page 15)
Rabbi Charlop’s explanation is a lesson in how to seek and search for wisdom: The proper search for wisdom will lead the person to understand that he must seek to be one who fears God, which, in turn, will provide him with an opportunity to discover knowledge of God.
Robert attended a class on Bible delivered by a powerful speaker. He loved the way the teacher read the verses and decided he should focus his Torah learning on Bible. Unfortunately, he soon found that he could not read the text with the ease and insight of the teacher, and that it was not as exciting as the class. He decided to search for a different area of Torah study, and went to a class on Midrash.
It was fabulous, practical, deep, insightful, and exciting. “This is it! I will study Midrash.” He bought a set of Midrash only to find that he could not find the same type of insights and excitement on his own. He would have to find another area of Torah study that would speak to his soul. So, he went to a lecture on Kabbalah…
Robert did not understand that the excitement he experienced in both classes was his soul’s response to the learning. He had found an area of Torah study that spoke to his soul. However, the body, accustomed to the immediate pleasure of the physical world, did not experience immediate pleasure when Robert had to work hard, “Seek as silver, search as for a hidden treasure,” to find the joy and excitement through his own efforts.
His studies spoke to his soul, not his body. The primary battle between body and soul is not about sin, but about finding the area of Torah that most powerfully speaks to our soul!
The first step of acquiring wisdom is the awareness that this is the primary battlefield between body and soul. The first issue will always center on the need to “seek as silver, search as for a hidden treasure.”
It is at this point that the person who is searching for “his” wisdom, the Torah study that will speak most powerfully to his soul, that he will understand that he will not be able to move forward unless his search for wisdom is a search for awe of God; for a deep relationship with the One Who Gives us Torah. A person will not find his place in Torah unless he understands that Torah study is a quest for relationship with God.
Torah study that is such a quest will allow him to discover knowledge of God. Only then, will he become one who is a Yarei Shamayim!