Shaarei Yosher, sec. 3: Self-Interest – part 5

One can also feel this way with respect to acquiring a greater thing [than a qav of merchandise], which is wisdom. To elaborate: If a person does not try to the full measure of his ability to acquire Torah, to grasp the wisdom of awe-fear and pure faith, then there is a possibility to stumble through the strength of the middah of self-love. The same way this middah causes evil to all who study external knowledge. If it weren’t possible to see more of Hashem’s actions through the broadening of knowledge, as it says, “the heavens tell of the glory of G-d [, and the work of his Hands is described by the sky.” (Psalms 19:2)], they would fall and descend downward. If they believe that all their wisdom and all they acquired were not theirs, they would lose all their wealth. Only through heretical denial can they make themselves rich. Then, all that makes them great is theirs, and can make them haughty of what they accomplished.
וכן אפשר להרגיש ענין זה גם בקנין העושר היותר גדול שהוא קנין החכמה, למדגיש בה, שאם לא ישתדל האדם לפי ערך מעלתו בקנין תורה להשיג חכמת היראה והאמונה הטהורה, אז יש מקום להכשל על ידי התגברות מדת אהבת עצמו, וכמו שמדה זו גורמת לרעה על כל העוסקים בחכמות חיצוניות, שלעומת שהיה ראוי שיתוסף מראה על ידי התרחבות ידיעתם במעשה ה׳, וכאמור השמים מספרים כבוד ה׳, הנה הם נופלים ויורדים למטה, שאם יאמינו שכל חכמתם וקנינם לא להם הוא, הרי אז אבדו כל עשרם, ורק על ידי הכפירה יתעשרו, כי כל מה שיתרונם בהם הכל להם הוא, ואז יש להם להתגאות בקנינם,

What we said about productivity and creativity is also true of learning — both academic and Torah knowledge. People take special pride in what they know, as knowledge is an internal acquisition, it becomes part of me.

However, Rav Shimon points out to us that knowledge comes with a unique tool to help avoid this pitfall, aside from the general approach we will see next (at the conclusion of this discussion of self-interest). There is an approach to wisdom that negates the usual tendency toward claiming credit, avoiding recognizing Hashem’s assistance in our endeavors, and potential heresy. All knowledge is awareness of what Hashem made — whether it is seeing Divine Wisdom in creation, or seeing His Glory in His Torah. One can thus pursue knowledge, including secular knowledge, as a way to encounter G-d.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *