What is Wisdom?

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Alexander asked the ages, “Who is wise?” The sages replied, “One who anticipates the outcome of his acts” (Avos 2:9). (Tamid 32a)

A wise person studies the universe and its laws, he studies the range of human behavior and physical needs and plans accordingly. He seeks to comply with reality, not his emotions which oppose it. Based on a given person’s personality and temperament, a wise person knows what to say and what not to say (to avoid conflict and self harm). Jacob embodied this when confronted by Esav. Joseph embodied one who harnessed tragedy (famine) and sustained countries. He worked with reality.

The wise person is successful, as success refers to one who supplies all his needs and finds satisfaction. He expends energy to avert being homeless, hungry or alone. He assesses his needs, excels at a particular ability—or learns it—and diligently toils to live moderately, allowing ample time for his Torah pursuits. One who finds difficulty performing in this manner, may require counseling to realign his thoughts with reality. Such a person might be intelligent, but an emotion can block one’s performance and hinder his life. With moderate knowledge and effort, a normal person can attain his needs. But the wise person excels over the  average person in his greater knowledge to obtain what is good and avert harm. He is aware of all variables, so he undergoes fewer surprises and mishaps.

Wisdom is the acquisition of knowledge and the understanding of how all God created interrelates, and finally, living according to that knowledge.