Wise Traits

Ancient Jewish thought recognized seven traits of a wise person:

A sage

  1. does not speak before one who is wiser* than he;
  2. does not interrupt the words of his fellow;
  3. does not answer impetuously;
  4. asks relevant questions and gives appropriate answers;
  5. deals with first things first, and last things last;
  6. about something he has not heard he says, “I have not heard”;**
  7. 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.

NOTES

*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.
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One comment

  1. […] some of what I gained in readable portions over the course of the next few days. I begin — as Pirkei Avot (5:9) tells us sages should do — with “first things first [al rishon […]

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