Mishlei: Tree of Life II: Don’t Hate It!
“My child, do not despise God’s ethical instruction, and do not allow yourself to be irritated by His rebuke, for God rebukes the one He loves, and like a father, He mollifies the child. Enriched is a person who has found wisdom, a person who can derive perception from it, for its commerce is better than the commerce of silver, and its produce, than fine gold. It is more precious than pearls, and all your desires cannot compare to it. Length of days is at its right; at its left, wealth and honor. Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its pathways are peace. It is a Tree of Life to those who grasp it, and its supporters are enriched.” (Proverbs 3:11-18)
How interesting that although we praise the person who “Loves rebuke,” King Solomon does not ask us to love rebuke and instruction, but rather, to, “do not despise God’s ethical instruction, and do not allow yourself to be irritated by His rebuke.”
Shlomo Hamelech is teaching us that before we can become a person who loves rebuke and instruction we must first learn to not despise or be irritated by them. Our natural reaction to rebuke and instruction is irritation and resentment. The Vilna Gaon explains that, “God’s ethical instruction” refers to suffering. He continues by defining, “His rebuke,” as God’s words.
At first glance I would have switched the Gra’s definitions: We tend to associate suffering, or “Yesurim,” with rebuke, not ethical instruction. I also would have thought that God’s words are His “Ethical Instruction,” rather than His rebuke. Furthermore, I can understand despising rebuke and being annoyed by instruction, not as the verse says, especially considering the Gra’s commentary that we naturally would despise instruction and being annoyed by rebuke.
Let’s continue with the theme before addressing our questions: The verses teach us how to overcome our hatred of ethical instruction and annoyance with rebuke. The first step is to recognize that, “God rebukes the one He loves, and like a father, He mollifies the child.” The next step is to understand and appreciate Wisdom’s value, “Enriched is a person who has found wisdom, a person who can derive perception from it, for its commerce is better than the commerce of silver, and its produce, than fine gold.” Shlomo is using Wisdom to describe Ethical Instruction and Rebuke. There must be a hint somewhere why Wisdom includes the two. Whose wisdom? Is King Solomon referring to God’s Wisdom, or to our acquired wisdom?
The Gra comments on, “Enriched is a person who has found wisdom,” by referencing another verse: “But as for wisdom, where can it be found?” (Job 28:12) “HaChochmah mei’Ayin Timatzei,” which can also be read, “Wisdom can (only) be found in ‘Ayin,‘ or God, Who is beyond comprehension. (Ra’ava di’chol ra’avin, Ein Sof)
He elaborates on Ethical Instruction and Rebuke by focusing on “Father.” A parent will instruct, and, if unsuccessful, will then rebuke. The Gra reminds us that Ethical Instruction, must precede Rebuke.
To Be Continued…