“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates reproof is senseless.” Proverbs 12:1
A deeper understanding of this proverb’s wisdom requires that we know a little Hebrew.
Musar is the word that is translated as discipline. But musar is really more than discipline. I like to think of it, too, as chastisement or correction. In that light, the proverb can also give us a keen insight into how to approach Yom Kippur, the major holiday we encounter tomorrow.
On that day, we complete a process of turning back to God, partly through examining and improving our behavior and seeking forgiveness for wrongs done against God and others. To paraphrase the proverb, Yom Kippur, for Jews, is a prime time to “love chastisement” by accepting and acting on it.
What do we gain when we love chastisement? Through that love, we show we love knowledge, and, from that love, we gain knowledge.
Da’at is the Hebrew word for knowledge. Importantly, this is a very different knowledge than that which it takes to do well on Jeopardy. It’s really a knowledge of, and rich instruction in, how to live life well, in accord with the virtues and principles that reflect God’s expectations of us.
So, now we’ve gotten to the heart of the proverb. Our openness to being properly chastised in the important matters of life, and changing accordingly, is essential to mastering the knowledge it takes to live a good life.
In addition to getting right with God and our fellows, isn’t this, then, at the core of Yom Kippur, the fundamental work of this holy day?
The other side of the proverb is true, too. If we hate reproof, preferring instead to ignore chastisement, we are senseless, even stupid, to the necessary activity of self-correction. And, thus, we close ourselves off from the life-changing knowledge it makes possible for us.
So, yes, “may your fast be easy,” that is, unless it takes a hard fast to be open to chastisement, change, and turning back to the ways God has lovingly established for us. In that case, may our fast be hard.