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I know that watching movies about biblical events does not always portray the reality of the event narrated in the Bible.

There are several films about King Solomon and one of them implies that the cause of his decline was not foreign women, it was the excess of wisdom and the lack of goals, later triggering him to become attached to women as compensation, he built the temple but then I no longer knew how to have a purpose. And indeed it is quite strange how an individual with such intellectual capacity got to that state. Can too much wisdom get in the way of intuiting the human goal as something fleeting and without intrinsic value? Doing everything too fast can create idleness and prostration? Ecclesiastes would have been written in that state.

That was basically the idea of the movie I watched, it seems to me that someone naive and uneducated can handle life better than someone with high knowledge and a lot of knowledge.

In short, in Judaism is there this idea that an excess of wisdom or something that is good in principle even though it is good can be harmful to some extent? Would all the same good stuff have side effects? Or is this idea of the movies completely unrealistic?

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  • There is a concept that idleness is dangerous and needs to be avoided. This is why we are not allowed to davka take time off work on Chanuka, there's no halachic basis to do so, and we are not meant to put ourselves into a state of idleness without good reason. However, it is hard to imagine King Shlomo suffering from this, a holy tzaddik is never idle, but always fulfilling mitzvot and ratzon Hashem
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 29, 2022 at 15:36
  • I asked more specifically about good things that in excess can be harmful. A man who receives a lot of wisdom would have both the good and the bad side of knowledge, he would know the mysteries of life and existence but at the same time he would feel an emptiness about what he really is. I don't think there's a better word to express me than this. What advantage does the wise have over the fool? Would Solomon have been somewhat dissatisfied with the reality that the wisdom he received revealed to him and this produced a personal anguish that in the long run led him to decline?
    – Thales
    Dec 29, 2022 at 16:28
  • Several Jewish sources point only to his wives as the reason for his shortcomings
    – Dov
    Dec 29, 2022 at 17:07

3 Answers 3

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Much simpler -- he thought he was so smart that he didn't need checks, balances, or guardrails.

The Torah says a king can't have too many wives, less it distract him from his duties; Solomon said "I'm so smart, I can have wives and not get distracted!" -- and he got distracted. "Don't have too many horses, as that will cause the Jews to relocate to Egypt." I'm so wise, I'll do the horse thing and still figure out a way to avoid a reverse exodus! That didn't work either.

Your question of too much of a good thing is interesting in the broader sense, but there's a very clear lesson on where King Solomon went wrong -- he was so wise that he thought rules didn't apply to him.

There's also the famous midrash that he had a ring upon which was inscribed THIS TOO SHALL PASS, and that he'd put it on if he was feeling down ... or if he was feeling too happy. What's so bad about feeling too happy? Eli Wiesel z"l said that as long as there's something wrong, there can be hope for it to be better ...

(Again, not quite a "cause for downfall.")

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Whilst I don't believe that wisdom was related to Shlomo Hamelech's shortcomings (see several sources that relate it was purely a result of his wives - Sanhedrin 21b, Shemos Rabbah 6:1, Shabbos 56b)...

In relation to your question:

In short, in Judaism is there this idea that an excess of wisdom or something that is good in principle even though it is good can be harmful to some extent?

Shlomo HaMelelech himself records the following in Koheles 1:18:

כִּ֛י בְּרֹ֥ב חׇכְמָ֖ה רׇב־כָּ֑עַס וְיוֹסִ֥יף דַּ֖עַת יוֹסִ֥יף מַכְאֽוֹב

For in much wisdom [i.e., when one relies too much on his own wisdom, he is bound to sin and to cause] much anger [to the L-rd], and the increaser of knowledge increases sorrow.

The Metzudos Dovid on this pasuk relates:

כי ברוב חכמה. במי שנמצא בו הרבה חכמה בו נמצא הרבה כעס, כי מאוד ישכיל מעשה בני אדם על אמתותם, וכשרואה שאינם טובים יכעס בעצמו, כי הדברים ההם אינם כפי רצונו ובזה יכעס, ומה מאוד מזיק הכעס

For in much wisdom - In the one in whom there is a lot of wisdom, in him there is a lot of anger because the more he thinks of the actions of a person and their truths and when he sees that it is not good he will become angry with himself, because those things are not according to his will and he will be angry about that and anger is very harmful.

So the drawback of having much wisdom is that it can lead to a greater level of anger which is obviously not a good thing (e.g. see Shabbos 105b) and can actually have the reverse effect.1


1 See Pesachim 66b:

רֵישׁ לָקִישׁ אָמַר: כׇּל אָדָם שֶׁכּוֹעֵס, אִם חָכָם הוּא — חׇכְמָתוֹ מִסְתַּלֶּקֶת מִמֶּנּוּ

Reish Lokish said, any person who becomes angry, if he is a Torah scholar, his wisdom departs from him.

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You can say yes, Through his wisdom and reasoning on marrying a thousand wives.

Like any great individual tzadic or not, the pursuit of wisdom is dangerous not because you can get lost, rather because you can overthink things in the pursuit of your desire creating many loopholes, in the end, g-d will decide if your journey was correct or not, leaving you to live in your mind of reason until your end. And note, just as you have loopholes, so does the satan, and in the end, the satan has more knowledge and knows your true intent that can be used to expose your true motives keeping you short of your perceived garden of eden. The rationale mind will immediately draw conclusions, and stop going forward in a path that will ultimately make you suffer (as mentioned in the previous answer) and yes this applies to all, to chacham Yosef Dayan, to the Abuchatzera family, even a great cabalist and mathemation rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburg. And this is why they only pursue the path of the truth (Tiferet and malchut) and help others to achieve their truth from birth, as there can only be one truth (Likutay maharan) At times you will see them pray using their imaginative faculty in the brain that can be a form of art, though not the same as motivating heaven to pursue their perception of reality unless it already aligns with the supreme truth before their perception, I.E Helping a country become healthy moral, removing corruption from a place, or having new technology come to fruition, this is what can be a higher calling and these families are around to help a true calling be achieved.

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