chochmah

Search for Her and seek Her out, and She will reveal Herself to you. When you lay hold of Her do not let Her go. Take your rest with Her at last, and She will become ecstasy for you. (Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach, 6:27–28, NRSV)

If Wisdom is both the teacher and the taught, then following her is becoming intimate with her. The Hebrew verb “to know” means both intellectual knowing and sexual intimacy. To know Wisdom is to be her lover, and by loving her you become God’s beloved as well for “the Lord loves those who love Her” (Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach 4:14, NRSV).

How are you to love Chochmah? By knowing her. You know her by knowing how she manifests in the world as the world. You know her, the Way of Life, when you know the ways of the living.

Our question now becomes, how do we live with wisdom? We opened our discussion of the Hebrew Wisdom tradition with the claim that it was a postconventional worldview depending on neither personal gratification nor compliance with communal norms, but on universal principles available to all: Chochmah translated into a way of living.

Like the grain in wood, Chochmah “pervades and penetrates” all things (Wisdom of Solomon 7:24, NRSV). Just as the experienced woodworker learns to cut with the grain, so the wise learn to work with Chochmah. You do not pray to her or choose her, you simply see her and work in harmony with Her. Wisdom operates for you whether or not you appreciate her. What distinguishes the wise from the foolish is their ability to distinguish between a belt and a snake.

How do you become wise? “The beginning of Wisdom is this: Get Wisdom!” (Proverbs 4:7). While this teaching may seem solipsistic, it actually reveals an important aspect of Chochmah: the way to Wisdom is Wisdom herself. The way of Wisdom is study, observation, and clear perception. What you study, observe, and perceive is Wisdom as well, for she is both the Way to and the Way of. Wisdom “knows and understands all things,” (Wisdom of Solomon 9:10, NRSV) because she is the creative energy through which God fashions all things. To know her is to know the Way of all things. But you cannot study Chochmah in the abstract, for there is no abstract with her. You study Chochmah by studying life and the myriad living beings that comprise life.

Chochmah is not a reluctant guide or a hidden guru. She is not hard to find, nor does she require any austere test to prove you are worthy of her. Rather she “stands on the hilltops, on the sidewalks, at the crossroads, at the gateways” (Proverbs 8:1–11; author’s translation) and calls to you to follow her. Wisdom’s only desire is to teach you to become wise. Her only frustration is your refusal to listen to her.

The Bible is not reticent to sing Chochmah’s praises. She is “intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, active, incisive, pure, lucid, invulnerable, gracious, keen, irresistible, loyal, trustworthy, all-powerful, all-pervading, and all-penetrating” (Wisdom of Solomon 7:22–23, NRSV).