Mishlei Twenty-Nine and Thirty: Paths

Sorry dear readers! Another double post – this time because I have the lovely excuse of having spent the weekend celebrating the wedding of one of my best friends, and literally didn’t have a minute solo to read and comment on my chapter yesterday. We’re nearing the end of Mishlei/Proverbs, so double or nothing it is!

“Without vision the people become unrestrained, but he who keeps the Torah is fortunate (Proverbs 29:18).” This verse is so simple, and yet profound. I feel like so many of us, myself included, spend time trying to ‘vision.’ We make resolutions every new year, set goals at the start of a school year, ‘pin’ visuals of our ideal lives, and make vision boards in the hopes of manifesting the paths we hope to travel. Without vision, without a clear path looking towards the future, we fall into the trap of losing our way, and flailing instead of acting meaningfully. It’s not good to be locked in, necessarily, but I believe most people thrive when they have a goal in mind, and an object to work towards.

“There are three things that are concealed from me, and four that I do not know; the way of the eagle in the heavens, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship in the heart of the sea, and the way of a man with a young woman (Proverbs 30:18-19).” I love that all of these things are so natural, so beautiful, and yet so inexplicable that we can’t even begin to comprehend them. Sometimes it’s the most simple, precious things that are the hardest to grasp, because by their very nature they are tempestuous. It’s great to keep some wonder in all of our interactions, and I love that there are things that we don’t have to understand, and that aren’t meant to be explained. Mystery is a beautiful thing, and we need more of it in this world.

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Mishlei Twenty-Eight: Fear

“Fortunate is the man who is always afraid, but he who hardens his heart will fall into evil (Proverbs 28:14).” I don’t know that I’d consider it to be a good thing to live in constant fear, but I do believe caution to often be a positive, so maybe in this case the motivation is a plus? Healthy fear can be good – it keeps us from being reckless, and stops us from doing things that we may regret. But if it paralyzes us, and keeps us from taking risks and being the best possible versions of ourselves, then fear is stifling, and that isn’t a good thing. We need to find the balance between recklessness and being overly cautious, and I know that it’s a different thing for each one of us. I hope to be a bit more intentional about getting outside of my comfort zone, while still maintaining a good sense of judgment.

Mishlei Twenty-Seven: Honesty

“Open rebuke is better than concealed love (Proverbs 27:5).” As a general comment, I’m really enjoying Mishlei/Proverbs, and I love the advice that I’m finding in each chapter. It’s great to be moving forward towards the conclusion of this project, and I’m glad that after seven full months of Psalms, there’s a bit more meat to it now. I chose this verse in particular because it seems to speak to the theme of honesty, even when things are uncomfortable. We are being instructed not to hide from our feelings, and rather to own and recognize them, regardless of what they are.

Mishlei Twenty-Six: Honor

“Like snow in the summer and like rain at harvest, so is honor unbefitting for a fool (Proverbs 26:1).” This verse indicates that giving honor to a person designated as a fool is totally incomprehensible. First, ouch. It seems horrible to pigeonhole someone and then determine that they aren’t worthy of honor and respect. But yes, there are people out there who seem so beyond reason that maybe we shouldn’t honor them (certain political leaders spring to mind). So maybe honor and respect are different in this case – everyone is worthy of respect and basic human dignity, butĀ honorĀ is reserved for those who deserve it. How do we become people worthy of honor?

Mishlei Twenty-Five: Friendship

“Have your quarrel with your friend, but do not divulge another’s secret (Proverbs 25:9).” This is amazing advice that many people would do well to take today. Any meaningful relationship will have its share of dissension, which comes with the territory of being honest with someone over the course of time. But while arguing is inevitable and sometimes can even lead to good results, it can easily escalate to an unhealthy place. Arguing is fully separate from betrayal, which is what happens when we gossip, share each other’s secrets, and break down trust. Even when fighting, we need to maintain our integrity, and behave in keeping with our values.

Mishlei Twenty-Four: Learning

“And I, myself, saw; I applied my heart; I saw and learned a lesson (Proverbs 24:32).” This quote seems so applicable to this week, when I’ve been traveling around Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, hearing the stories of the incredible and complex people who make up this diverse city. I feel like in order for this process to be successful in making its intended impact, I need to follow the precepts listed in this verse. First, I’m coming as myself – bringing with me all of the history and baggage that I have, both positive and negative, as it pertains to Jerusalem, Israel, and all of the various issues in play here. I don’t believe in starting with a clean slate, but instead am committed to acknowledging the unique background with which each of us approaches a situation and using it as a foundation for the experience. Second, I’m seeing – watching the surroundings, the interactions, and the people themselves, in each scenario. Third, I’m applying my heart – I’m trying to reconcile each of the experiences that I’m having with my vision, goals, and inner understandings of Israel. I’m connecting with my heart and soul, and figuring out how each perspective relates to me and my Zionism. And finally, I’m learning the lessons, and can’t wait to bring them back home, and to my future learners.

Mishlei Twenty-Three: Aging

“Hearken to your father; this one begot you, and do not despise your mother when she has grown old (Proverbs 23:22).” The latter part of this sentence is heartbreaking in that it even needs to be said. I am lucky enough to still have three of my grandparents, and my two grandmothers-in-law, alive today. They’re all at various stages in life, and have started to slow down, and require more help than in the past. While it’s sometimes sad to watch this process play out, I’m so glad to have all of them with me for as long as possible. So when I hear people complain about elderly people and their needs, it hurts. Everyone is only with us for a finite amount of time, so we should focus on appreciating them while we have them, rather than complaining and being resentful.

Mishlei Twenty-Two: Education

“Train a child according to his way; even when he grows old, he will not turn away from it (Proverbs 22:6).” This verse comes up a lot in Jewish education settings, and for good reason. It’s an iconic endorsement of individualized instruction, drawing on the idea of teaching each child in his (or her) own way – the way that works best for them. We know that not every child, or learner of any age, responds in the same way to the same materials and teaching methodologies. Therefore, we’re instructed to differentiate, and provide each learner with a pathway to success that meets their needs. It’s hard, to be sure. It’d be much easier for the educator to plan for one than to strive to connect with each student in order to best meet their needs, but it’s infinitely more rewarding for all involved to do so. Watching learners light up is the greatest pleasure of being an educator, and it’s truly an honor to call myself one every day.

Mishlei Twenty-One: Justice

“Performing charity and justice is preferred by God to a sacrifice (Proverbs 21:3).” I love this verse. Sacrifice, of course, is something that the Jewish people haven’t ritually performed since the destruction of the second Temple. We’ve substituted prayer in its place, but there are definitely people who still see that as a placeholder for what ‘should be.’ However, here we’re seeing that the lack of sacrifice isn’t what we should obsess over, because far more important is charity and justice, things that we can actively commit ourselves to every day. The amounts and format of each of these things aren’t specified, so it’s on us to make this challenge our own and do these things.

Mishlei Twenty: Sleep

“Do not love sleep lest you become poor, open your eyes and be sated with bread (Proverbs 20:13).” Awkward. I actively love sleep, particularly on days like today when it seems like everything has piled up, is happening, and needs to happen. Yes, it’s been ‘that day.’ I’m actually flying back to Israel tomorrow, so sleep is elusive. Instead, I’m in a mad dash of work, packing, and a general sprint through all of my to do’s. But sleep sounds lovely. I understand that we’re not supposed to laze away days (something else I do all too often), but I can’t help but love snuggling in my bed and drifting off to sleep. Anyone else with me on this?