Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “Stuff him like an ox.”

The Mishna in Pirkei Avot criticizes the person “whose wisdom is greater than his deeds” (3:17).

This is not a repudiation of wisdom, but merely a safeguard:

If a person does not want wisdom to affect him like a “deadly poison,” he must always apply it.

To be sure, no matter how much one applies his wisdom, it is never enough.

One must always progress and improve.

The Talmud in Ketubbot 50a advises teachers of young children that once a pupil has reached the age of six, “stuff him like an ox,” i.e., feed him as much knowledge as possible.

At the same time, however, a person’s fear of sin should take precedence over his wisdom – his wisdom must never exceed his ability to use it.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz