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Mishlei: Insight and Application

“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)

King Solomon has already taught us that it is only through wisdom that we will acquire true awe of God. He urged us that it demands tremendous effort to acquire wisdom. He spoke to us about the stages of acquiring wisdom, including how to listen. Shlomo urged us to use our acquired wisdom as part of each step of our service of God. He now  begins to guide us through the next steps in the process of acquiring practical wisdom.


“For only if you call out to understanding,” explains the Gra, means that we must actually “call out” to understanding. Once we achieve an understanding, meaning we have discerned the concept of an idea, and are able to apply it to other ideas, Binah, we must “call it out,” articulate our insight as it applies to other concepts, and speak out how it relates outside its immediate context.

The process of articulation will automatically lead to, “give forth your voice to discernment,” further applications. One insight will lead to another. Binah, or, this level of articulated understanding, is vibrantly alive.

Binah is the ability to understand why the Torah “added” a letter to a word. Tevunah, or discernment, is to understand why the Torah chose that specific letter.

I often find that when I share an insight in a class, articulate a Binah insight, that inevitably someone will  find a new application, which in turn enhances and refines the idea presented. Binah articulated is not only alive, it is contagious.

From Binah to Tevunah
The process of a Binah developing into Tevunah, an articulated insight applied even further and deeper, allows us to experience Binah. We are no longer absorbing information, but participating in an infinite process.

Whenever I learn a new idea, or am granted an insight, I immediately consider how to insert the idea into my prayers. I choose a specific phrase in the Siddur, and when I next pray, will stop before reciting the phrase to review the idea or insight. That is part of my effort to articulate Binah. It is only the beginning of a process, because the application of the idea to prayer always leads to another, deeper insight, which I will use the next time I pray. That insight, will again stimulate more and deeper insights. The first insight becomes many. It expands into other prayers and Mitzvot. The articulation of the Binah leads to discernment, Tevunah. I never know how far the process will go. I usually can’t wait until the next opportunity to pray so that I can discover new applications.

Seeking and Searching
“If you seek it as if it were silver, if you search for it as if it were hidden treasures,” explains the Gra, describes two stages. “Seek it,” or, “tivakshena,” is used to describe someone searching for something he has lost. According to the Gaon, this phrase describes a person who will search for a lost insight with the same commitment as he would for lost silver. The person who has experienced going from Binah to Tevunah  appreciates the priceless value of every single idea and insight, and will assiduously work to regain an idea he forgot.

Such a person will immediately appreciate the infinite wisdom treasured in every single word of Torah and Mitzvah. His entire approach will be with the commitment to delve deeper and deeper into the Torah and Mitzvot as he would if he were searching for treasure. He will never be satisfied with the surface meaning of Torah, nor the simple fulfillment of a Mitzvah. His experience of Binah to Tevunah will become part of his entire approach to Torah and Mitzvot. They will become actual treasures.

Awe and Knowledge
“Then you will understand the fear of God, and discover the knowledge of God.”

To Be Continued

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