Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro is currently the president of Metivta, a center for contemplative Judaism in Los Angeles and director of the Simply Jewish Foundation. His most recent book is The Way of Solomon: Finding Joy and Contentment in the Wisdom of Ecclesiastes. Now he has given us a fluid and very fine translation of Proverbs. He reveals how the edifying aphorisms and folk wisdom of Solomon's time, especially the advocacy of overcoming ignorance, practicing self-discipline, and having personal integrity, speak to some of the central challenges of our era.
Shapiro states at the outset: "To benefit from reading Solomon's proverbs you have to have the courage to see the world as he does: simply, and without the smoke and mirrors of our rationalizations and excuses." In other words, slow down and be fully present with this "three-thousand year old how-to manual." Read it in small doses. Let its fragrances surround you and abound in you.
"Begin with this: the foundation of wisdom is the selfless love of God." Proceeding from there we see that wisdom can be found everywhere: "Not everything that happens will be enjoyable, and not every word you hear will be kind, yet receive everything as a gift and a teaching." Solomon has gathered a lot of aphorisms about the value of silence, patience, kindness, generosity, and honesty. He knows that gossip, impatience, selfishness, greed, and dishonesty diminish us. At one point, we read that "the way to wisdom is through wonder." At another juncture, the words jar us: "Wonder enhances life; worry shortens it."
This little book contains page after page of proverbs to take to heart and practice in your daily life. Here's a gem to act upon: "When you give to the poor, imagine you are giving to God; your reward will be instantaneous."