Friday, October 13, 2006

A thought about wisdom- Chochma

As I was thinking about how to understand God’s will I found myself thinking about “Chochma” usually translated as wisdom and remembered that Rambam has an interesting discussion about it in MN 3:54. It is the introduction to the last chapter in the Moreh where he explains how one arrives at the ultimate goal of knowing God and emulating Him.

It is possible that the meaning of wisdom in Hebrew indicates aptitude for stratagems and the application of thought in such a way that the stratagems and ruses may be used in achieving either rational or moral virtues, or in achieving skill in a practical art, or in working evil and wickedness.”

It is a mechanism that we humans use that gets the brain going when we think or act. When we try to understand what made God create existence we assume that a similar mechanism triggered that action, though He does not think or act at all. We attribute wisdom to Him because that is the only way we can understand how things came about. That is the deep meaning in Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah 2:2:

והיאך היא הדרך לאהבתו, ויראתו: בשעה שיתבונן האדם במעשיו וברואיו הנפלאים הגדולים, ויראה מהם חכמתו שאין לה ערך ולא קץ--מיד הוא אוהב ומשבח ומפאר ומתאווה תאווה גדולה לידע השם הגדול, כמו שאמר דויד "צמאה נפשי, לאלוהים--לאל חי"

What is the way to love and fear God? Whenever one contemplates the great wonders of God's works and creations, and one sees that they are a product of a wisdom that has no bounds or limits, one will immediately love, laud and glorify [God] with an immense passion to know the Great Name, like David has said, "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God".

I believe the translation of the word “Erech” as “bounds” is incorrect. It means estimation or value. For something to be valued it has to be compared to something, it has to be relative. God’s wisdom cannot be valued or estimated because there is nothing to compare it to. The mystery of God’s wisdom that was the catalyst for creation forces the inquiring mind to seek an understanding of that great unknown. That process, that urge, that almost hopeless search triggers an emotion that is described as love, praise, glorification, appetite and thirst to know God.

Chag Sameach.

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