Mishlei | Words to the Wise | Chapter 2
A personal note to our readers:
As some of my loyal readership will be aware, I have been working on a book on Mishlei for some time. I wrote the first twelve chapters and then placed everything in a file somewhere close to hand. Then, well life caught up with time and the project became something that I will “one day” get to.
Over the Yomim Tovim the family asked why I haven’t turned to the task of finishing this project. I have many different answers of course, as do all procrastinators the world over. There is no real answer, it just got lost in the shuffle of daily existence.
I now want to take up where I left off and get on with what I hope will be a worthy sefer. The following is the second chapter which was written some time ago…. I hope my readers will enjoy it.
The publishing of any new book comes with great expense and usually need sponsors to help in the costs. Anyone interested in helping us in this project will be given dedication opportunities. Please let us know if you can support us in this way thru email or our website, theinformalproject.com.
Thank you all in advance for your understanding and help.
Y Reuven Rubin
Mishlei – Words to the Wise
By Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita
Phones. They are the bane of our lives. You can’t live with them, yet try living without them. They chirp, ring, even play whole wedding tunes. They are always there, seeking our attention. Remember when a phone was just a big black plastic thing that sat on the table? It had wires and a dial, and with your finger you turned the numbered wheel and heard a strange stuttering sound as you withdrew your finger. In that long-forgotten time, all the phone did was get the person you were calling. Today it often seems that modern phones can do everything but reach the one you are seeking. They can give you the weather report in India; they play music, receive mail and can do much more. You often find that you hanker for those simple old machines – but forget it, they ain’t never coming back.
Recently our home went through a residential telephone change, something that in itself can be fraught with enormous stress. The old system was getting a bit fragile, wear and tear had taken its toll, and the volume control was completely gone. (Some may consider this a positive state of affairs in that much of what is transmitted over phones today is better left unheard.)
The timing of this major switch-over had to be planned with military precision. It had to be done at a time when the Rebbetzin was away – there is something about a Bubbie and her grandchildren that doesn’t allow for even a moment of phone-inaccessibility. It also needed to be done when I would have some free time to acquaint myself with what I knew would be an added burden of unwanted information.
Well, the day arrived. It was a summer’s day, and the sun was shining, washing over the countryside with a warm glow of peaceful contentment. Rubin went off to the local telephone emporium, focused on getting the best phone system possible, one that would carry his voice clearly, allowing him to hear just as well, and most importantly, one that would not have too many gadgets to make life just that much more difficult.
After a shiur on the merits of all the phones on sale, I walked away proudly carrying a huge box under my arm. When I arrived home I quickly ripped apart the packaging and dug about all the foam stuff to find my new toy. There is something about men and their gadgets. We all think we understand things and rush into such projects blithely ignorant of the facts. Oh, yes, all new electronic devices come with instructions, but everyone knows that those aren’t meant for the true connoisseur. Besides, have you ever tried to read those things? They come in five languages, none of which vaguely resemble English.
After some false starts, I had the system up and running. I proudly placed the old phone and its bits into a box and set it by the back door of the house, next to the garage. This fact is important and very telling. Yidden hate throwing things away. After all, who knows when we may need them again? Stuff becomes very important once you know you can’t use it, and you have a problem with simply throwing it in the bin. So you place the junk in a box, and for a week it stands near the garage – still inside the house, mind you. Then you push it a little further out into the garage proper. After a few weeks it can be found in the junk pile at the corner of the garage, and with any luck, by Pesach it will finally make it out to the rubbish bin.
Right; back to my adventure. I now had a new phone set up, and over the next few hours I played about with all its new features. You wonder how you ever survived without all these new services, and you can’t even begin to understand how your poor parents survived without them. As I sat fiddling with it, gradually I became aware of a strange sound. Every few minutes I would hear an electronic chirp and would look around to see what it was. I thought it was coming from the new phone but soon concluded that it wasn’t. I then went around the house checking all the alarm systems, the mobiles, even the car door lock. Nothing! I couldn’t find any source for what was now becoming a very persistent and annoying intrusion.
At my wits’ end, and about to call in the experts (i.e., my granddaughter), I walked past the box holding the discarded phones. “Chirp chirp” … Gotcha! I quickly delved into the mass of twisted wires until I came across the old hand receiver. Chirp chirp, it bleated, and when I looked down I saw that its screen was still alight (I had failed to remove the batteries), and on it flashed three words: “Searching for signal.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but a huge wave of pity ran through me at that moment. This poor, sweet phone was seeking a signal, a spark of connection – in truth, a hope for life.
The Gemara tells us that every day a Bas Kol, a Heavenly Voice, is sent forth from Heaven calling the Yidden back to their roots. Many ask what purpose this Heavenly Signal serves, being that no one seems to be able to hear it. Recently I gained a lovely understanding of this gemara from the Rosh Beth Din in Manchester, Dayan Yitzchok Berger. He told me that he once met a religious Jew who told him that he had originally lived in Markham in the north of England. Dayan Berger was taken aback. Markham is not known for its heimisheh community, and in fact it doesn’t even have a shul. The fellow smiled and told his story:
“I wasn’t religious at all; in fact, I was sort of a confirmed disbeliever. One morning I went out for a jog and ran down toward the sea. The path passed by a large garden, and for some reason I stopped there to rest. I turned and noticed a rosebush, and although I used to run past this spot daily, I had never noticed the rosebush before. I looked at the branches and saw a most perfect and lovely red rose. In the early morning light I could see it was kissed by the dew, and looking at it caused a shudder to run through me. Who created such perfection? I thought. What power could have put all the ingredients together to create such stunning beauty? It was at that moment that I realized there must be a G-d, and I resolved to learn His ways and become reconnected to His Will.”
“The Gemara’s message is simple,” the Dayan went on to say. “There is a Voice that goes out all the time from Sinai. The challenge is for us to see and hear it. For that Markham Jew, Hashem’s Signal was heard all the way from Sinai to the rose near the beach. Hashem is all around us, in everything we do and see. We just don’t often hear Him.”
The Book of Mishlei tells us, “To make your ear attend to wisdom, to incline your heart to understanding.” The greatest wisdom is knowledge of Hashem’s greatness, and to begin to understand this one must be ready to stoop down to the everyday, and seek His Essence. There are those who think that the “Voice” of Hashem can be heard only on some spiritual mountaintop that few ever climb. But He is right here at “ground level,” where we live, where we strive and grow.
The passage tells us further, “If you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of Hashem, and find the knowledge of G-d.” If you have ever lost a precious stone, then you know how far you are willing to go to search for it. People will go through the entire house, overturning cupboards and ransacking old shelves. They will do this because they know that stone is somewhere, probably in front of their noses, and that it can be found if they persist. People will even sift through the garbage; no matter – they will sink that low just to recover what is valuable.
The very act of searching teaches the soul how to understand. As the passage goes on to tell us, “For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.”
Ask that Yiddel from Markham about this, and then, ask yourself.