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    How wise must I be? – Ask the Rabbi

    "Knowledge" - mural in the Library of Congress

    Q. I know the Tanach says we should strive to be wise, but there doesn’t appear to be any quantification about how much wisdom one should acquire.

    A. The Book of Jeremiah says (9:22), “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches.” The Targum (the Aramaic translation), personifies the categories of wisdom, might and riches, saying, “Let not the wise Solomon, son of David, pride himself on his wisdom, nor the strong Samson, son of Mano’ach, pride himself on his strength, nor the rich Ahab, son of Omri, pride himself on his riches.”

    Wisdom, might and riches are good to have, but they must not be misused. Whatever degree of wisdom you possess must be used wisely. The Talmud (Kidd. 49b) attempts to define the ideal measure of wisdom when it says, “We do not say, ‘He must be as wise as the Sages of Yavneh or like Rabbi Akiva and his colleagues’”. The amount of wisdom you have must be the amount you can attain according to your own capacity. No-one expects you to be a clone of someone else and to feel upset when you fall short of their standards.

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