Awe and Wisdom

I was asked by my Rabbi, David Baron, to give a reading at the beginning of the Rosh Hashanah service last week and I thought my viewers and readers would enjoy it. The reading is below:

Awe and Wisdom

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are called the Days of Awe. When you look up the word awe you’ll find that it literally has multiple definitions. It means “mixed emotions of reverence, respect, fear, and the one I like best – “wonder.” And as Socrates stated: “Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”


But how can we live in an age of wisdom? We acknowledge that we live in an age of information, but as T.S. Elliot put it:

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

Wisdom itself is not easy to define. But I believe it is best summed up by these words from British Journalist and Broadcaster, Miles Kington.

Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it into a fruit salad.

In fact, the Torah (The Old Testament) tells us that when God (the Transcendent Awe) asked King Solomon what he really wanted in his life, Solomon’s only reply was: “WISDOM, so that I can have a discerning heart to distinguish between right and wrong.”

God’s response was: “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor as well.”

So, during these ten most “Awesome days of introspection.” Ask for wisdom. But also remember, if you don’t find it, be kind to yourself, because to quote Socrates again: “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”


What surprised me was that a few days later, this past Sunday, Parade Magazine’s cover story was also about AWE, written by Paula Spencer Scott.

The article was titled: Feeling Awe May Be the Secret to Health and Happiness  below are some excerpts from the piece:


“Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast or beyond human scale, that transcends our current understanding of things,” says psychologist Dacher Keltner, who heads the University of California, Berkeley’s Social Interaction Lab. He added that: “Awe binds us together. It’s a likely reason human beings are wired to feel awe to get us to act in more collaborative ways, ensuring our survival.”

Awe helps us see things in new ways. Unlike, say, fear or excitement, which trip our “fight-or-flight” response, awe puts on the brakes and keeps us still and attentive, says Arizona State University psychologist Michelle Shiota.

Awe makes us nicer—and happier. “Awe causes a kind of Be Here Now that seems to dissolve the self,” says social psychologist Paul Piff of the University of California, Irvine. It makes us act more generously, ethically and fairly.


May you all feel a bit of awe and have a wonderful week,


Plus, the episode airing this week features Angella Nazarian and our discussion about her book, Visionary Women.







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