Wisdom of Kahana: The Wise Man
One of the distinct differences between Karaite Judaism and the Rabbanites is that our communities are led by the Hakhams, the wise men, whereas the Rabbanites rely on their Rabbis to impart knowledge. Normally one would not think there would be that great of a difference but the truth is, that the differences are almost like night versus day. The Hakham is a relayer of past and present knowledge based solely on the Tanach, the original books of the Old Testament. Whereas the Rabbi is a creator of legalistic and interpretive impression based primarily on the Talmud. The Hakham is bound by the words as they are presented in the Tanach though as Anan ben David pointed out that interpretation can vary because no two people necessarily read the words alike but as long as the original meaning is not violated then the variance is acceptable. The Rabbi is bound by the words of previous Rabbis that have lent their own opinion to the words in the Tanach and in fact their interpretations have supplanted the original context to the point that the Talmud praises Rabbi So-and-so for his interpretation and not God. This means that any Rabbi can interpret any law as he deems fit and that it does not necessarily have to be in agreement with any other Rabbi. Hence the reason that the Rabbanites are split in to as many sects and factions as the Christians. And what is even more an anathema to a Karaite like myself, is that they openly proclaim that they are a follower of the Labavitche Rabbi So-and-so, or the Chabad Rabbi So-and-so, or the Hasidic Rabbi So-and-so but never do they simply say they are a follower of YHWH, a student of God. Obviously, in my opinion that is a major failure of the Rabbanites because Wisdom would imply that the knowlege is granted by God, is given by God, and is imparted to those that pursue the ways of God. And in this article I will provide my personal insight as to how I evaluate a Man of Wisdom. What is necessary in order to be a Man of God.
The first lesson of wisdom to be learned is appreciating just how little we truly know. We dwell in ignorance and a wise man comprehends that even with a lifetime of learning ahead his capacity to learn is minimal compared to the vast quantity of knowledge that exists within the universe. The man who calls himself ignorant is actually wise. He will place little importance on the knowledge he already possesses and will always regret that he missed opportunities to gain even more. Because the truly wise man knows that whatever he has gained from books and teachings is nothing compared to what he learns from his own observations and enquiries. The learned man that can repeat paragraph by paragraph from a book but that should not be confused with wisdom, for he can express nothing new from his own knowledge of the world. The wise man provides us with knowledge that is unique, original and which may ultimately change our lives but is based on established principles that provide him with his guidance.
The wise man measure the weight of every word he speaks. He knows that it is not the volume of his words but the importance of a single word by which he will be remembered. He seeks not fame or fortune but only the knowledge that what he had to say was considered important enough to be passed on through time and down through generations. He looks not for titles of praise or the accolades of his peers. Often he will earn the condemnation and ridicule of others but that will not deter him from his desire to pass on his knowledge and understanding. He only hopes that others will consider his words worthy enough that they will be incorporated into their own teachings.
The wise man nourishes his soul through his pursuit of wisdom. He knows that whatever he learns he is compelled to pass on. But the wise man always questions whether his words are sufficient and has serious doubts in himself that his words will only fall on deaf ears. The wise man is aware of his imperfections and can enumerate them for all to see. He is never satisfied with the level of knowledge he has attained. He constantly strives to be a better person. Within his own quiet nature he becomes a fountain of strength and other men will ultimately come to the fountain and drink, finding refreshment in the knowledge he dispenses.
The wise man will accept advice from all others, but he will weigh and measure all that he is offered as per its true worth. He does so because the wise man is aware of his own limitations and recognizes that others may have the answers that he lacks. He knows that advice can be good or bad no matter who may be offering it. Even the fool can on occasion pass on good advice and similarly even a wise man will utter foolish counsel at times. So each word and lesson he hears is put to the test of value before he chooses to repeat it.
The wise man knows that he must aim for perfection in all that he teaches and passes on because there are no limits to the achievements and quality that can attained by the student that hears his words. The wise man seeks to always reach a standard that has never been attained before and encourages others to do likewise. He knows to always strive to be the best at whatever profession he partakes in and does not waste his time being consumed with envy by the achievements of another. He concerns himself only with improving his own abilities so that his students can become a master at what they do.
But most of all the wise man will never engage in debate with anger upon his lips because then he plays the fool’s game. For a fool tries to berate his opponents through abuse and intimidation and then feels as if he won his argument because those opposed have walked away or cowered in fear. The wise man knows that as soon as his opponent raises his voice in anger or delivers a volley of insults and attempts to belittle through intimidation, that he has already won the debate. The observing student knows this because he recognizes that his wise teacher cares not about the vitriolic attitude and emotional outbursts of his opponent but only that an opportunity has been lost to deliver an important message to another individual. Therefore there is no reason to engage further but time to seek another that will be more receptive. Wisdom is also the knowledge of knowing when it is time to move on.
Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kahana