Mishlei: Strategies of Wisdom
“That a wise one may hear and increase his learning, and a discerning one may acquire strategies.” (Proverbs 1:5) Strategy is an important theme throughout Proverbs. As the Ramchal teaches in Mesilat Yesharim – The Path of The Just – The evil Inclination is a warrior and well versed in deception. One cannot escape it without great wisdom and a broad outlook. (Chapter Two: Concerning The Trait of Watchfulness)
I use this idea every time I daven and say; “Melech, ozair, u’moshia, umagen,” – “King, Helper, Savior and Shield.” The Vilna Gaon explains that the three appellations, Helper, Savior and Shield,” correspond to three levels of Bitachon, or Trust in God. One who trusts just a little will receive help from God. God will help the person who makes an effort to grow and improve. God will actually serve as Savior for someone who trusts in God’s salvation. This person, need only to look to God, and He will save him from sin and suffering. However, God will actually shield someone from harm and sin, if the person has achieved the highest level of trust.
I used the Gra’s approach of three levels, and in addition to his explanation, I include the Ramchal’s teachings: God will help someone who is struggling against his evil inclination. God will actually save the person who strategizes how to escape from sin. God will shield the person who will strategize how to avoid falling into the traps of the Evil Inclination. The Ramchal stresses how we cannot possibly outsmart the Yetzer Harah without God’s help. This phrase can help us remember and review our responsibility to strategize and how God responds according to that effort.
Winston Churchill was chronically depressed. Yet, when he became prime minister of Great Britain in its darkest hour, he responded, “Finally, I can sleep at night!” The depressed person raised the spirits of a depressed nation. He had developed a brilliant strategy for battling his dark moods: He named his depression, “Blackdog,” and learned to treat it as something outside of himself. (Churchill’s Blackdog and Kafka’s Mice and Other Phenomena of the Human Mind by Anthony Storr) Please see The External Enemy
I decided to use Churchill’s approach to battle my Yetzer Harah, and named him “Rembrandt,” for the artist’s ability to make even black seem colorful. When Rembrandt attacks, I have the advantage of dealing with him as someone else attempting to hurt or distract me.
Strategies work. Strategies are work in the sense of Avodah, as in Avodat Hashem – Service of God. King Solomon reminds us that even those who have achieved wisdom and understanding must use that wisdom and perception to strategize against a very powerful enemy.