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Mishlei: In The Eyes of God and Man



Bamarom: “On high, may merit be pleaded upon them and upon us, for a safeguard of peace. May we receive a blessing from God and just kindness from the Lord of our salvation, and find favor and good wisdom in the eyes of the Lord and man.” (Birchat Hamazon)

The closing phrase is based on a verse in Proverbs: “My child, do not forget My Torah, and let your heart guard My commandments, for they add to you length of days and years of life and peace. Kindness and truth will not forsake you. Bind them upon your neck, inscribe them on the tablet of your heart, and you will find favor and good wisdom in the eyes of the Lord and man.” (Proverbs 3:1-4)

I have always wondered how we can “find” ‘good wisdom’ in the eyes of God or of man. I also find it astounding that we would place finding favor in the eyes of others together with finding favor in the eyes of God. We list this ‘finding favor and good wisdom in the eyes of God and man’ after blessing, kindness and salvation. Whatever this “finding ‘Sechel Tov” is, it is the highest level of the prayers listed in that paragraph of Birchat Hamazon. It is greater than, or, the result of, receiving a blessing from God. It is a higher level of achievement than, or, the result of, “Just kindness from the Lord of our salvation.”

One thing is certain: ‘Sechel Tov’ does not mean ‘ggod wisdom. The Vilna Gaon (Commentary to Proverbs) doesn’t translate ‘Sechel’ in this verse as wisdom, but as success; “You will successfully find favor in the eyes of God – Bein Adam LaMakon (Between Man & God) – and in the eyes of man – Bein Adam L’Chaveiro (Between One Person and Another)

The Sefer Chemdah Genuzah, collected from the unpublished notes of the Gra, describes different levels of Sechel: Chochmah – Wisdom is the practical intelligence that allows us to translate a general idea into action. Da’at – Knowledge is related to Sechel as instruction; the ability to translate Chochmah and Binah into something concrete. A father’s contribution is considered the Chochmah. The mother’s combining the her cells with the father’s, and nurturing the combination into specifics; limbs, organs, and ultimately, into an individual, is Binah. Da’at is the expression of the Chochmah and Binah coming together.

‘Sechel’ is the purpose of all, Chochmah, Binah, and Da’at: It is the result of all three. It is the child functioning on his own. It is the action that results from a person accessing and using his Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge.

Shlomo Hamelech is teaching us that one who follows his course in wisdom, and has learned how to, “not forget My Torah, and let your heart guard My commandments,” will fulfill all his obligations to God, including his relationships with other people, and will develop natural intelligence to know how to act in such a manner that he will constantly find favor in the eyes of God and man. This Sechel, or natural intelligence, will directly reflect on his Chochmah, Binah and Da’at. It will be the measure of his ability to, “Bind them upon your neck, inscribe them on the tablet of your heart.” It is the highest goal of our quest for wisdom, understanding and knowledge.

God will see, before people, the beauty of our actions. God will see the beauty of our intentions, but that is not enough; we desire and pray for, the Sechel Tov, the natural intelligence, to always act in a manner that will find favor in the eyes of other people.

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