PIRKEI AVOT: MAKING YOUR WISDOM LAST
Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa says, "Anyone whose fear of wrong doing precedes his wisdom will have enduring wisdom. Anyone, however, whose wisdom precedes his fear of wrongdoing will not have enduring wisdom."
He would say, "Anyone whose deeds exceed his wisdom, his wisdom will endure. Anyone whose wisdom exceeds his deeds, his wisdom will not endure."
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1. How does fear of wrongdoing, or having a "moral compass" relate to enduring wisdom?
2. How would you define enduring wisdom? How does a fear of wrongdoing serve it?
3. Can a person be wise and immoral? Is smart the same thing as wise?
4. In the first statement Chanina ben Dosa speaks of a proper attitude. In the second statement, he is talking about action. What is an example of "active wisdom"?
One who assumes that there is no such thing as a morally neutral thought will enjoy enduring wisdom. If one's life is constantly directed toward a moral purpose, then one's thoughts will have lasting value.
However, Chanina ben Dosa responds that this is not enough. If these thoughts are not actualized by one's behavior, by one's example, then all these wonderful ideas are belied by one's inaction. The wisdom will not be taken seriously. It will not endure, because the individual did not follow his own words. Why should anyone else follow them?