“I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
I possess knowledge and discretion.” — Proverbs 8:12
When we read Scripture with an understanding of Hebrew, the original language in which the Torah was written, we often discover the full meaning of a verse that might otherwise remain hidden. Such is the case with today’s verse from Proverbs, which reads: “I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion.” The Hebrew word used for “prudence” is ayrum. That particular word takes us all the way back to the beginning of the Bible.
When we read about the sin of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, the word ayrum is used in two different contexts. First, we are told that the snake in the Garden of Eden was the most ayrum of all creatures on earth. We understand that the snake was exceptionally cunning, and appropriately, the word ayrum in our verse from Proverbs is interpreted in Scripture accordingly.
However, there is an alternative meaning to ayrum. A few verses later in the Genesis account, we learn that Adam and Eve noticed that they were ayrum. In this context the word implies that the first couple recognized that they were naked, and shortly after God clothed them. Another meaning for the word ayrum is “naked.”
So we are left with two interpretations of a key word in this verse, and along with that, two important but distinct life lessons.
In the first message, the Jewish sages teach us that when it comes to learning the wisdom of God’s Word, we must always couple our learning with cunningness. We must come up with ways and schemes so we can set regular times for study in our already busy schedules. In addition, we must devise ways by which we can remember the content studied, as well as ways to integrate all we’ve learned. Review, memorization, and meditation are all methods used in the Jewish tradition to ensure that God’s Word remains firmly planted in our hearts and souls.
The second interpretation of the word ayrum teaches us that a spirit of “nakedness” must accompany Torah study. The Talmud teaches that Torah “is not established inside a person unless he is not.” What does this mean? A person has to be unattached, empty of ego, and free of bias, if he or she is to truly receive the Word of God. We must take off garments of pride, coverings of previously learned knowledge, and anything else that might obscure a pure transmission of God’s Word.
May we take each of these lessons to heart so that we might study the Bible effectively, but more importantly, so that God’s Word may most deeply affect our lives.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President