A Chapter Of Good Advice - Studies In Life From Jewish Proverbs

A Chapter Of Good Advice - Studies In Life From Jewish Proverbs

A Chapter Of Good Advice

Suppose A Lecture (subject, Good Advice) to be given in The Large Lecture Hall, to-night, by the Venerable Rabbi Wiseman. We go, but with mixed feelings, assuring ourselves we do not care a straw for his advice, but we have nothing much better to do, the man has a reputation, and we wonder whether the hall will really be full to hear him. Somewhat to our surprise, the hall does fill rapidly, is full! Extraordinary how a well-known name will draw: doubtless the man has got a “following” in every town, prepared to drink in every word he says. But that will not altogether account for it; there must also be a big number here to-night who have come, like ourselves, out of mere curiosity.

We wait the great man’s arrival with impatience, uncomfortably conscious that we are meant to be edified, expectant that we shall be merely bored. (A lecture of “Good advice,” forsooth. As if we haven’t a right to our own opinions, and are not competent to advise ourselves: it will take him all his time to impress us!) The Rabbi arrives, to the usual clap-clapping of his admirers in the hall.... We are a little surprised at his appearance—a strong face, but his best friends would not call him handsome. At the same time, to give him his due, one could not call him pompous.... Why doesn’t the Chairman stop talking?

Who wants to listen to him? Seeing that we are “in for it,” let’s hear what the speaker has to say, and so get it over At last the Rabbi rises, and proves wiser than we have expected; wise enough to be also wily. He begins with a touch of humour; we smile, are caught off our guard, and for a few moments (it was all he needed) he has captured our attention.

Here is the thread of his remarks:

Commend not a man for his beauty,

And abhor not a man for an ugly appearance.

Be willing to listen to every godly discourse,

And let not the proverbs of understanding escape thee.

If thou seest a man of Wisdom get thee betimes unto him,

And let thy foot wear out the steps of his doors.

But, Let thy foot be seldom in thy neighbour’s house,

Lest he be weary of thee and hate thee.

Answer not a fool according to his folly,

Lest thou be like unto him.

He that giveth answer before he heareth,

It is folly and shame unto him.

Learn before thou speak; and have a care of thy health,

Or ever thou be sick.

Prepare thy work without and make it ready for thee in the field; and afterwards build thine house.

Hast spoiled thy work? Take a needle and sew.

Boast not thyself of to-morrow;

For thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

Change not a friend for the sake of profit,

Neither a true brother for the gold of Ophir.

Laugh not a man to scorn when he is in the bitterness of his soul; for there is one who humbleth and exalteth.

Reproach not a man when he turneth from sin;

Remember we are all worthy of punishment.

Dishonour not a man in his old age;

For some of us also are waxing old.

Rejoice not over one that is dead;

Remember that we die all.

Do no evil, so shall no evil overtake thee;

Depart from wrong, and it shall turn aside from thee.

My son, sow not the furrows of unrighteousness,

And thou shalt not reap it sevenfold.

Be not thou envious of evil men, neither desire to be with them, for their heart studieth oppression and their lips talk of mischief.

Let not thine heart envy sinners, but be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long; for surely there is a reward and thy hope shall not be cut off.

Say not thou, “It is through the Lord that I fell away: for that which He hateth He made not.” Say not thou, “It is He that caused me to err, for He hath no need of a sinful man.”

Say not, He will look upon the multitude of my gifts, and when I offer to the Most High God He will accept it.

Keep thy heart with all vigilance,

For that is the way to life.

Be not faint-hearted in thy prayer,

And neglect not to give alms.

Commit thy ways unto the Lord,

And thy purposes shall be established.

A brief lecture, but none the worse for that. Much Wisdom in small compass. Depart, as you must, whether touched or ostensibly indifferent. However that may be, whatever your feelings now, you cannot forget all his words; some of them are fastened in the memory. One day you may act upon them and discover that they were wise indeed, and then you will want yourself to move a vote of thanks to the lecturer.

Excerpt From Studies In Life From Jewish Proverbs By W. A. L. (William Alexander Leslie) Elmslie