“A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” (William Shakespeare)
“Yossei the son of Yoezer of Tzreidah would say: Let your home be a meeting place for the wise; dust yourself in the soil of their feet, and drink thirstily of their words.” (Pirkei Avot, 1:4)
” Ben Zoma would say: Who is wise? One who learns from every man. As is stated (Psalms 119:99): “From all my teachers I have grown wise, for Your testimonials are my meditation.” (Pirkei Avot, 3:1)
And here is my take on something that has been said in one form or another…
“The person who thinks they know everything, has nothing to learn.”
While the news of the day would seem to be the motivating force behind these quotes, this is an idea that hit me for other reasons. Though the lesson is the same. Too often people go off half-cooked, armed with only a little bit of information… a phrase… an idea… a piece of the puzzle… yet they present themselves as experts.
Facts and knowledge are essential to our growth and our survival… as human beings and as Jews. We MUST know where we came from… we MUST know our history… and we MUST study.
Learning and growing is what life is all about. It should never stop. Our thirst for knowledge should be unquenchable, and our desire to grow, to become a better person, to be more fulfilled is what must motivate us from the moment we arise and recite Modeh Ani, to the moment we rest and say the Bedtime Shema.
We must wrap ourselves, literally, in Torah.
And yet, we are attacked at every turn… just watch the daily proceedings at the UN… And, in what is part of the inspiration for this post, let us take a look back at the Six Day War. 2017 marks the 50th Anniversary of this essential time in the history of Israel as a state. The facts and actual history are things that EVERYONE should know, must know. Like how the UN essentially abandoned us and our border at the behest of Nasser and Egypt, and what the Arabs actually called for… the utter destruction of Israel and Jews… all of us. Too much of this is brushed under the proverbial rug and forgotten when people call for the dismantling of the Jewish State.
Understanding the truth and facts about 1948 and 1967, and not letting others take our own history and twist it, manipulate it and use it against us, is vital to our survival. There are specifics each and every one of us MUST know and be able to share. But we must also keep in mind where our actual history starts… we must know what is in the Torah.
Look at what is happening on college campuses, where young minds can be easily manipulated, armed with only a handful of phrases and notions. Far too many movements seek to delegitimize Israel, and thus Jews. So how do we combat this hatred… this anti-Semitism? We must know who we are and where we came from.
Thus we study Torah. We learn our history. We gain the knowledge to be able to have articulate, truthful and informed debates and discussions, and most importantly, we defends ourselves.
“Shimon the Righteous was among the last surviving members of the Great assembly. He would say: The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of G‑d, and deeds of kindness.” (Pirkei Avot, 1:2)
The Torah is the first thing mentioned. And that is because it is the beginning… it is the start of everything. Torah gives us the law, the ethics, the morals we need to guide us… and it gives us the complete realization and vivid understanding that there is a higher power… that there is something way beyond us… which in turn, gives our lives meaning and purpose.
Therefore, the most important thing any of us can have… is humility. This is where it starts… in an absolute and unshakeable belief that there is something greater, higher and mightier than ourselves… That everything we have and learn and know comes from Hashem.
This is what motivates us to serve G-d and what will make us truly kind, and kind for the right reasons. It is the difference between doing the “nice” thing and doing the “right” thing.
This where it starts. This is where each and every one of us can take that first step, so let us be open to receive, for humility will give us everything: Gratitude, peace, and knowledge… humble knowledge.