Mishlei: The Search
“Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who obtains understanding.” (Proverbs 3:13) The Vilna Gaon connects this verse with another: “But wisdom, where shall it be found? And where is the place of understanding?” (Job 28:12) Wisdom is consistently described as being found. Understanding is obtained. We receive wisdom when we find a Rebbi or a Sefer (Holy Book). Understanding one idea from another, will come only through one’s effort to use the wisdom he has found.
The Gra teaches that we must begin by searching for wisdom. All our learning, whether from books or teachers, must be a search for wisdom. It is there to be found. The process begins with searching. The search must be with “Ratzon,” passionate desire for true wisdom.
Only the person who searches for wisdom will be able to obtain understanding.
I recently was reviewing my Avodas Hashem Notebooks and found a “Tachbulah,” or strategy, scrawled in a child’s handwriting, (28 Av, 5731) “Say, ‘I will learn this as part of my search for wisdom,’ before learning with a Rebbi or opening a Sefer.” I remember the day I wrote that note: The first time I sat down with my grandfather zt”l to study Makkot, he began by asking me what I wanted. “I want to learn Gemara with Zeidy.” “Why,” he asked.
This was strange. “Zeidy is Zeidy,” I answered. He still wasn’t satisfied with my answer. He continued to push me beyond wanting to be as great as he, beyond wanting to know all of Torah, even beyond wanting to know how to think. He pushed me until I told him that I wanted, needed, to know the specific Gemara we were about to study. “Now you know how to learn. The rest is easy, as long as you realize that you must know what you are about to study.”
The Yalkut Shimoni teaches that King David and Solomon debated how to use this approach…