(by Christopher from Brutal Planet and the PaRDeS Radio Torah Portions on PaRDeS Radio and KKVV 1060AM)
The pursuit of knowledge and wisdom is not necessarily the same thing in terms of applied faith. One of the major issues we often acquire in the Netzari Faith is by thinking the two are indeed synonymous. We should realize this when reading the words of Paul in the book of Romans when he implies that one will only be held responsible for what they know.
“There is therefore no excuse for you, O man, who judges your neighbor; for by judging your
neighbor, you condemn yourself; for you that judge do practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of Elohim is in accordance with truth, in regard to those who practice these things. And what thinks you, O man, who judges those who practice these things, while practicing them yourself, that you will escape the judgment of Elohim? Or will you abuse the riches of his benevolence, and his long suffering, and the opportunity which he gives you? And do you not know that the benevolence of Elohim should bring you to repentance?”
(Romans 2:1-4) (AENT)
This very much parallels R. Bachya in his writings in the 11th Century in Duties of the Heart where he said that the intellect of a man parallels his observance, with more intellect comes more of an obligation of observance where the man with less intellect, less is required of him. This appears in his gate of introspection on reflection. This sentiment is also spoken of by the Baal Shem Tov as well as the Ramchal.
The seeking of knowledge is not a negative attribute but it is limited in it's capabilities. A college student is learning to be a lawyer, he gets A+s on all his exams, turns his homework in on time and gets amazing marks on the things he has learned from his professor, yet can he call himself a lawyer honestly until he passes his bar exam and has his first case? Until he does that his knowledge is not applied, thus it is essentially useless until applied. Think of knowledge and wisdom being like a cell phone and a charger for your cell phone. Without the charger you can only speak for a few hours on the cell phone, unless you have electricity and a charger the cell phone is nothing more than an overpriced paper weight and is not really of any use to you if the battery is dead. However, if a person has a home and car charger the cell phone will work as it is intended and not be useless. Our faith in Yeshua and Torah is essentially the same thing.
Often times we try and be smart, we read a lot of books, we listen to tons of commentaries, buy all the DVDs we can find, read tons of articles by authors and commentators you trust to teach you yet, it is doing you no good. The thing I often see in the Netzari faith is something that is a huge stumbling block, which is confusing wisdom with knowledge and thinking they have equal weight, treating the Scripture as a text book to fill the mind with facts for an exam. Though a life without the applied knowledge is nothing more than a waste if one does not find failure and wisdom after they have gained knowledge of a certain thing.
Our wisdom often times comes from failure, for the wisest people I know are the ones who apply many different ways, they try different ways of applying the mitzvos till they find how to connect deeply to Hashem. For instance Sabbath observance, one week a person may turn off the lights in their home and all electronics, the next they may go to the schul,the next they may stay at home and study by watching or listening to commentary. Wisdom comes from personal reflection and personal application to seek after Hashem, or at sometimes accidentally stumble upon Him without meaning to do so. By reading from the Scriptures and noticing something personal, a personal story that you have experienced that parallels what you have read. The verse or chapter or book may then take on a whole new life to you like it never has and that is wisdom. Wisdom is application and it is something that lasts, though with knowledge you do not use it....you may loose it in a short period of time. But a man who works on an engine of a car, and does it and refines the way he does it will become the expert on how to fix the motor when the one who studies the motors at MIT and has never touched a single motor, and has never cut his hands or gotten his clothes greasy will be lost a few months later and will have to re-study the chapter on assembling motors for his final exam. Yet the one who has worked on them will be able to ace the exam without even touching the book in over 30 years because he has applied it. Rabbi Shalom Arush goes into great detail on this in his book The Garden of Peace where he parallels the same premise with marriage:
“In his earliest days, the Holy Celibate Shlit'a decided that his soul years for Torah. He concluded that his best move would be to remain single and find a secluded house of study where he could devote the days of his life to Torah and to Divine service. Soon the Holy Celibate Shlit'a discovered a tiny clapboard synagogue in a rural village, far off the beaten track. He asked permission from the local beadle to eat, drink and sleep within the confines of the synagogue, which also served as the village house of study. He solemnly promised not to disturb a soul. The beadle agreed.
The Holy Celibate Shlit'a would quietly sit in the corner, learning day and night without disturbance or interruption. He barely left the house of study. He limited his food intake to only a few pieces of dried crusts of bread a day. Denying himself of anything he found enjoyable, he drank water from the tap, and slept on a hard wooden bench. Days months and years then transpired in this matter, until the fateful day when the beadle found the Holy Celibate Shlit'a lying lifelessly on the floor of the synagogue.
The entire village escorted the Holy Celibate Shlit'a on the way to his final resting place. They couldn't find adequate words to express his holiness. All the villagers were certain that such an individual, totally withdrawn and aloof from anything mundane, was surely a great tzaddik.
In fact, the Holy Celibate Shlit'a agreed with the villagers; he was sure that he was a tzaddik of lofty merits. And his soul ascended to the Heavenly Court, he was certain that he'd be greeted by an honor guard of history's greatest tzaddikim playing lyres and cymbals, accompanied by a choir of archangels singing in a six part harmony. He was positive that they would be escorting him to his rightful station below the Heavenly Throne to bask in the sublime light of The Divine Presence.
The Holy Celibate Shlit'a suffered a horrifying shock of disappointment. No souls of the greak tzaddikim arrived to greet him. He didn't have any angels playing music in his honor. All he saw were the images of his parents and ancestors standing in front of him with dejected contention. Without any further delay he was rushed off into the Heavenly Courtroom, where he stood before a tribunal of very stern looking tzaddikim.
The Chief Justice opened up a large volume, the life story of the Holy Celibate Shlit'a. He reviewed all of the Holy Celibate Shlit'a's mitzvot, and then addressed him by his first name, ignoring the dignified title “the Holy Celibate Shlit'a”. The chief Justice said 'Yosske , you learned quite a bit of Torah, you prayed, you made the necessary blessings, you put on tifillin daily and you wore tzitzit. You observed Shabbat and the holy days and you fasted even more than required. In fact you have done a good job of observing the mitzvot. There's a problem though with all your good deeds – you didn't complete the mission that you were supposed to complete in the physical world. You learned Torah but you failed to implement what you learned. Had you married you would have seen how far away you are from true Torah observance, for then, you would have had to invest much more effort to fulfill each mitzvah”
Casting a chastising glance at the shocked soul of the Holy Celibate Shlit'a, the chief Justice added: “Don't you know the entire purpose of learning Torah was to acquire emuna? The level of emuna you attained is extremely inadequate. Had you married you, you'd been required to face a long list of trials and tribulations with your wife. When she would have hindered your Torah learning with her various demands, you would have failed the tests. Whenever she would have belittled or scolded you, you'd have tarnished your soul with anger and complaining; only then would you have seen how weak your emuna really is. You thought you trusted in Hashem, but you'd been faced with the challenge of providing for a wife and children, you'd have seen just how frail your trust in Hashem.”
As a people, if Torah learning were for only a historical exam to be studied for then I think a majority of us in the Netzari Faith would get high marks. However, in the reality, when it comes to application and wisdom at times we are very much lacking because we tend to rely on the intellect, yet we don't believe that the intellect requires a paralleled observance for Yeshua himself warned of this very thing.
“And the Pharisees and scribes who came from Urishlim gathered around him. And they saw some of his disciples who were eating bread while their hands were not washed, and they complained. For all the Yehudeans and the Pharisees, if they do not carefully wash their hands, they do not eat, because they hold to the traditions of the elders. And goods from the marketplace, unless they are washed, they would not eat. And there are many other traditions that they have received to keep washings of cups and of pots and of brass vessels and of beds. The scribes and the Pharisees asked him. “Why don’t your disciples walk according to the traditions of the elders? But while they eat bread their hands are not washed!” And he said to them, “Yesha’yahu the prophet did well prophesy about you hypocrites! As it is written that, ‘This people honor me with their lips. But their hearts are very distant from me. And vainly they fear me while they are teaching the doctrines of the commandments of the sons of men.’For you have left the Commandment of Elohim, and you have embraced the tradition of the sons of men: the washing of cups and of pots and many others that are like these.” He said to them, “You well rejected the Commandment of Elohim that you might establish your tradition. For Moshe said to honor your father and your mother, and anyone who reviles his father and his mother, ‘Let them be put to death!’ But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or to his mother, “My offering is what you have gained from me,’ Then you do not allow him to do anything for his father or for his mother. And you despise the Word of Elohim, because of the tradition that you have handed down and that resemble these many things that you do.” And Y’shua called all the crowd and said to them, “Hear me all of you and understand, There isn’t anything that is on the outside of a man that enters into him that is able to defile him. But the thing that goes out from him, that is the thing that defiles a man. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” And when Y’shua entered into the house away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about that saying. He said to them, “You are likewise slow to understand. You do not know that everything which enters into a man from the outside is not able to defile him. Because it does not enter into his heart, rather into his belly and is cast out by excretion, which purifies all the food. But anything that goes out from a man is that which defiles a man.”
(Mark 7:1-20) (AENT)
Seek wisdom brethren and do not be afraid to fail cause with great failure comes great wisdom that is only gained through application. Everything can look great on paper until it is applied then we gain more intellect through wisdom and the table is then turned on our former perception of which is more valuable even during times of discourse.
Theological Insights from Rabbi Eved Banah at Beit Geulah in Morganton, NC (www.BeitGeulah.com)