בס״ד

Kavanot: Mishlei

Thoughts on Tanach and the Davening

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After almost 12 year, we have finished our study of ספר תהילים with ספר שמואל and דברי הימים. We could go back and learn תהילים all over again.

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>הדרן עלך ספר תהילים והדרך עלן. דעתן עלך ספר תהילים ודעתך עלן. לא נתנשי מינך ספר תהילים ולא תתנשי מינן, לא בעלמא הדין ולא בעלמא דאתי.
--מותאם מה־הדרן אחר שלמת המסכתא

There is always more to learn; it is always possible to go deeper. But I want to move onto another ספר in תנ״ך,‎  ספר משלי, for a number of reasons. It comes next in the sequence of books of תנ״ך, and it was composed by David's son Shlomo, so it comes next chronologically. But it is also very similar to תהילים, as a series of poetic compositions about the author's and our relationship with הקב״ה. Comparing and contrasting תהילים and משלי will deepen our understanding of both, and I hope to be able to do that. I remain utterly unqualified to teach תנ״ך, so I appreciate those who are willing to join me as I learn whatever I can.

The main sources for creating my מהלך in משלי (at least as I start out) are (in the order that I read them):

- Rabbi Charles Wengrov and Avivah Gottleib Zornberg, [_Malbim on Mishlei_](https://www.feldheim.com/malbim-on-mishley-1)
- Yonason Goldson, [_Proverbial Beauty_](https://www.ethicsninja.com/books/proverbial-beauty)
- Professor Jehoshua M. Grintz, [_על ספר משלי_](https://daat.ac.il/he-il/tanach/iyunim/ktuvim/mishlay/mishley-all/mishley-grinits.htm)
- Rabbi Dovid Morris, [_Mishlei Chapters 1-5: Metaphors for Living_](https://mosaicapress.com/product/mishlei-metaphors-for-living/)

The _Malbim on Mishlei_ book looks like it has an interesting back story; the title page reads, "abridged and adapted in English by Rabbi Charles Wengrov based on an original draft by Avivah Gottleib Zornberg" and Wengrov's introduction includes the lines, "I am indebted to Avivah Gottleib Zornberg for a splendid first draft, done with deftness and grace, and with a fine command of English. It lightened my task considerably". It was published in 1982, before Zornberg was *the* Avivah Gottleib Zornberg; [_Genesis: The Beginnings of Desire_](https://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/jps/9780827605213/) wasn't published until 1995, and that book jacket says "For ten years, Zornberg has mesmerized...audiences...sharing her own understanding of how life and text inform each other", so she must have just begun studying תנ״ך in earnest when she wrote that "first draft". I would love to know what that back story was.

[Rabbi Goldson](https://www.ethicsninja.com/) taught at Block Yeshiva High School for many years, and is now a writer and speaker. His book _Proverbial Beauty_ takes ספר משלי as a collection of metaphors (which is what the ספר says on the cover, after all), and uses the Mona Lisa and her enigmatic smile as a meta-metaphor for the "Secrets for Success and Happiness from the Wisdom of the Ages", as his book's subtitle puts it.

[Jehoshua Grintz](https://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%99%D7%94%D7%95%D7%A9%D7%A2_%D7%9E%D7%90%D7%99%D7%A8_%D7%92%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%A0%D7%A5) was one of the first professors at Tel Aviv University. He was an academic Bible scholar who argued against the Documentary Hypothesis and for a much more traditional interpretation of תנ״ך. His essay outline the structure of משלי and compares its themes to other books of תנ״ך and other "Wisdom Literature" of neighboring countries.

Rabbi Morris reads ספר משלי as a מוסר ספר, and uses the classical commentators to understand each pasuk as a lesson in character improvement.

I will be re-reading these as I try to develop my own understanding of each section of משלי. Let's see how well it holds together.

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A Wise Guy

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Why is a Raven Like a Writing-Desk