Ancient Jewish thought recognized seven traits of a wise person:
- does not speak before one who is wiser* than he;
- does not interrupt the words of his fellow;
- does not answer impetuously;
- asks relevant questions and gives appropriate answers;
- deals with first things first, and last things last;
- about something he has not heard he says, “I have not heard”;**
- acknowledges the truth.
—Pirkei Avot [Verses, or Ethics, of the Fathers] 5:9
This translation is borrowed from the Koren Mesorat HaRav Siddur
This means, Rabbi Adam Scheier said in an essay a few years back:
In other words, a wise person is not only defined by acquired knowledge. A wise person is one with whom it is easy to have a productive conversation; a wise person is thoughtful, responds on topic, is sufficiently open-minded to entertain new ideas; a wise person might even consider the possibility that he or she is wrong.
*Many translations say “older and wiser” — Hebrew is “מי שגדל ממנו בחכמה” — with some adding that the “superior one” should speak first.
**Another translation: “admit their ignorance.”
NaBloPoMo NOTE: “A Song Every Day” signed up for National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to daily posting for the month of November. Circumstances intervened on some dates. This post is hereby declared, by way of catching up, the official post of November 5.