Rabbi Dani Brett
Torah City Wide, Cape Town
Ben Zoma said, “Who is wise? One who learns from every person.”
(Pirkei Avot 4:1)
בן זומא אומר, איזהו חכם, הלומד מכל אדם.
One who knows all wisdoms but doesn’t love wisdom is not wise but a fool… one who loves wisdom and desires it, even though he may not know a lot, he is indeed wise, for eventually he will attain it… And there is additional benefit to this passion when it is rooted in the fear of Hashem… If you seek wisdom, which is the essence of reality, and desire it like you do material wealth, which is in fact fleeting … then you will achieve true wisdom, and from there you will indeed appreciate fear of Hashem and discover His wisdom too. This is what Ben Zoma teaches… whoever loves and desires wisdom such that he seeks it from every person… that searcher is indeed wise.1
There you have it. Wisdom is passion. It’s the love of knowledge because nothing is more real. Knowledge without love of it is folly. Ignorance with love of knowledge will produce wisdom. This is true of all subjects. In Torah, though, there is yet another element: fear of Hashem. That is a deeper passion. It may seem ironic, but the emotion of fear can take the love of knowledge even further. When the subject is Torah, then it’s understanding Hashem’s mind itself, so to speak. And that requires fear of Heaven, Yir’at Hashem. This is not just punitive fear, but deep respect, born out of admiration and awe.
This is the essence of Shavuot - embracing the gift of Hashem’s Torah through a love of the deepest wisdom contained within it and a deep respect and awe for the Mastermind behind it.
May we rediscover the warmest and richest feelings of fear and awe for Hashem and love and curiosity for the wisdom that He generously shares in his Torah. And we buckle down and learn each day, on the path to true wisdom - ready and eager to receive it from the wonderful teachers, rabbis and books around us, but also from whoever can share their humble and profound piece of it too.
Rabbeinu Yona, Avot 4:1