The Beginning of Wisdom

Yael Eckstein  |  March 16, 2023

teenage boy studying Torah with elderly man

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
    all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
    To him belongs eternal praise. —
Psalm 111:10

In Judaism, wisdom is something that should be sought, cultivated and taught — no matter what age we are. Enjoy this collection of inspirational thoughts and insights about this godly pursuit.

Albert Einstein famously said that “imagination is more important than knowledge.” Knowledge can tell us what to do and how to do it, but imagination drives us to acquire more knowledge and apply it in new and creative ways. Imagination fuels our curiosity and creativity. Knowledge without imagination is stagnant and limited.

But, according to the psalmist, there is something even more important than knowledge and imagination: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.”

“The beginning of wisdom” is fear of God. It is more important than knowledge, than imagination, than anything at all!


The Beginning of Wisdom

One explanation is that fear of God protects us spiritually. Just as intelligence can protect us from errors in the material world, fear of God protects us from moral and spiritual errors. Fear of God in the spiritual realm is like knowing how to save yourself in the physical sphere.

But fear of God doesn’t only save us spiritually, as the verse we quoted states, “Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” In other words, without fear of God, one simply cannot achieve wisdom. So how does fear of God actually make us wiser?

Think about it. Intelligence and wisdom are not the same thing. Sometimes people who are very smart do very foolish things. In fact, ironically, the mistakes they make are often the result of their intelligence!

You see, when people are very smart, their own intelligence can lead them to creative conclusions that are actually dead wrong. Highly intelligent people will come up with justifications and rationalizations for all manner of evil behavior.

That’s where fear of God comes in. Fear of God keeps us from arrogantly trusting our own intellects when they might lead us astray. Fear of God keeps us humble and obedient to God. When we combine our own intelligence with fear of God, the result is what we call wisdom.

Fear of God puts everything else in life into perspective. Only by making Him the center of our lives and judging our actions by His standards is all other wisdom worthwhile.

Your Turn:

Let’s commit to reinforcing and strengthening our fear of God. When a big decision comes along, let’s first submit ourselves to Him, then He will guide us to a wise choice.