The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
for gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight; — Proverbs 1:1–2
I have a friend who works in the diamond industry. At an industry conference he attended, a diamond dealer addressed the group, speaking about the long journey of a diamond, from the time it is mined in a remote part of the world to ultimately landing in the hands of someone who sells diamonds to the public in a completely different part of the world.
“But,” the presenter said, “the most important journey that a diamond will make is the 18 inches across a desk.”
In other words, the merchant was saying that if you can’t sell the diamond to a client, it doesn’t matter how far it’s come. It needs to make the final passage from merchant to buyer in order to make the entire journey worthwhile.
In many ways, this idea resonates with me when it comes to sharing the wisdom of the Bible. Like a diamond, our Bible has traveled on a long journey – from the desert in Sinai 3,000 years ago, through centuries and continents, until this very day. But the most important journey our Bible will make is from us to the next generation, or from us to those who have not yet discovered the truth and beauty of God’s Word.
Solomon certainly understood this which is why he wrote the book of Proverbs. In Hebrew, the book is called mishlei, which comes from the Hebrew words mashal, meaning “allegory.” Solomon’s brilliance was not that he possessed more wisdom than anyone else – it’s that he was able to break it down into easy-to-understand allegories so that the wisdom of the Torah became accessible to all. He was able to take the loftiest ideas and bring them down to earth in a relevant, understandable manner.
The lesson for us is that it’s not enough to share what we know; we need to take into account our audience, whether they are newcomers to the Bible, disenchanted youth, or our own children. We need to teach each group or individual in a way that he or she can understand.
Sometimes the best way to teach is by example. Everyone learns kindness by receiving kindness, or generosity as the beneficiary of generosity. Still, there are many other ways to reach out and teach the next generation or anyone wanting to learn. The key is to make our ancient wisdom relevant and meaningful to today’s generation.
Our Bible has traveled a great distance. It has shaped civilization by teaching the ideals of justice, morality, integrity, and kindness. Yet, we have a role to play in making sure God’s Word gets passed along to others. Take a few moments today to consider how we might reach and teach others.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President