The book of Mishlei contains deep wisdom with many layers of meaning which is often hard to grasp. Fortunately, such great commentators as Rashi provide clear explanations of the true meaning. However, this time, even Rashi didn't help me.

In Mishlei 9:10 we read:

תְּחִלַּת חָכְמָה יִרְאַת יְהוָה וְדַעַת קְדֹשִׁים בִּינָה׃

[Chabad Translation] The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and the knowledge of the holy ones is understanding, Praise of Him is everlasting.

Rashi comments:

תחלת חכמה יראת ה': היא עיקר הבינה:

The beginning of wisdom ... and the knowledge of the holy ones: is the root of understanding.

I don't understand this commentary at all and the following questions arise:

  1. Knowledge and understanding are not the same thing. So how can "knowledge of the holy ones" be "understanding"?

  2. Are "the holy ones" in this verse angels?

  3. So what's the correct meaning of the proverb in a simple language for us mere mortals?

  • 1. We can't ask about meaning especially correct one we can only wish for interpretations. 2. Rabbis don't have a clear difference between knowing and understanding, those terms are interchangeable. 3. Split it into different questions.
    – Al Berko
    May 7, 2019 at 16:28
  • Your Chabad translation is THE problem of your understanding. 1. Look at Sefaria sefaria.org.il/… 2. Rashi starts with the full quote, not from the end! I would advise you to rewrite your question based on the Sefaria text.
    – Al Berko
    May 7, 2019 at 17:27
  • And ALWAYS bring the original Hebrew text, please.
    – Al Berko
    May 7, 2019 at 17:27
  • @AlBerko Understanding is impossible without knowledge, and these are two different things. Just because you know something to be true you don't necessarily understand why it's true (at least that's my understanding of Torah's usage of these two terms). May 7, 2019 at 19:21
  • @AlBerko thanks for bringing up the Sefaria text, except I don't know Hebrew well enough to understand it:) May 7, 2019 at 19:23

1 Answer 1


The Ibn Ezra (commentary to Mishlei 9:10) seems to answer all your questions in one fell swoop.

First he explains the passuk:

תחלת חכמה יראת ה' - כטעם: ראשית חכמה יראת ה'.

The beginning of wisdom is fear of Hashem - the reason: the first wisdom is fear of Hashem

ודעת קדושים בינה - טעמו ותחלת הבינה דעת קדושים.

And knowledge of the Holy One is understanding- The reason-- and the beginning of understanding-- is knowledge of Hashem

Before giving a larger/ more thematic understanding to the verse:

ודעת קדושים - פירשוהו על השם יתברך, כאמרו: כי אלהים קדושים. והטעם: כי תחלת תולדת הבינה היא מציאות השם. ויתכן לפרש: דעת קדושים היא השגת מציאות השכלים הנפרדים והרוחניות כלם, כי ידיעת מציאותם עיקר הבינה וממנה יעלה למציאות המעלה העליונה, וכמו שאם אין יראה אין חכמה, כן אם אין דעת אין בינה.

Knowledge of the Holy One - this is referring to the Hashem, He should be blessed. Like it says: "that God is holy." And the reason: that the beginning of the birth of bina (insight) is the (find of the name of) reality of Hashem. It may be interpreted: Kedoshim is the attainment of the reality of the individual and spiritual senses, for knowledge of their reality is the essence of the understanding and from it will rise to the reality of the highest level, and just like if there is no fear there is no wisdom, so too if there is no knowledge there is no bina (insight).

  • 1
    Thank you, got it now:) May 7, 2019 at 6:57

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