I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Lady Wisdom and Dame Folly: A Hebrew Catholic Perspective


 Lady Wisdom and Dame Folly

The figure of Lady Wisdom in Prov 8: 1-21, 9:1-6 is at the heart of both the Jewish and Christian mystical traditions. She is known as Hokhmah (wisdom) and Binah (understanding) in the Hebrew text of Proverbs 8:1.  In Greek she is called Sophia. Verse 1 refers to her as the call (kara) of wisdom and the voice (kola) of understanding. She is perceived as the wisdom of the upright and holy Torah observant lifestyle (see verse 20). She is a heavenly model or template of the godly woman. The woman of valour in Proverbs 30 is her human manifestation. She is keen to seek out and invite all to her wisdom (Proverbs 8:2-4) and she invites them to partake of her feast of wisdom represented by flesh, bread and wine (Proverbs 9:2-5). This alludes for the Christian to the Eucharistic mystery. The text outlines those qualities she values such as discretion, prudence, instruction, knowledge, good advice, diligence, truth, good speech, justice etc. It also outlines those qualities she is against such as evil speech, wickedness, lying, pride, arrogance etc

Dame Folly has all the characteristics that Lady Wisdom hates. Proverb 7 also describes her as a loose women who is loud, obnoxious and a gossiping gad about town. She seeks to lure young men in with her kisses and sexual promise. She is a seducer, adulteress and flatterer. Her feast is represented as stolen water and bread eaten in secret according to Proverbs 9.

One can read this text in Proverbs on a literal level as the advice of a father to his son about finding a godly wife who is Torah observant and to avoid ungodly women. However I believe this is not its primary purpose but it is speaking of the spiritual journey of the soul in seeking true and holy wisdom and intimacy with the Divine through feeding on the Living Torah. Dame Folly alludes to a false and pagan (strange) spiritual path of avodah zara (strange service or worship) which ignites a strange fire like the sons of Aaron ( see Leviticus 10) which burns one up with inordinate desires. 

Lady Wisdom calls us to a holy and moral life in which we totally die to self and live for others, Dame Folly calls us to unbridled sensuality in which we indulge our selfish nature and use others for our own purposes. Lady Wisdom would seem to embody the alterity of the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas and Dame Folly of the anti-altruism of the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

In evaluating these text we need to be familiar with the role of the feminine in ancient Israelite culture. Often we are so busy looking at the past through a prism of our own prejudices about the past that we read our own issues or concerns into it rather than letting it speak for itself on its own terms. The whole subject of the Isha Zara (strange/foreign/ alien woman) in Proverbs is further complicated with the reference to the beautiful isha zara in Deuteronomy 21 who seems to have redeeming features so that she can be incorporated back into Israel. [1] The concept of the “Lost Princess” in Judaism is connected to this concept of the isha zara of Deuteronomy.[2] Could one’s soul move from the role of the isha zara or Dame Folly of Proverbs to the beautiful isha zara or Lost Princess and then on to unite with the immaculate Lady Wisdom?


Questions: How does the Hebraic Lady Wisdom differ or contrast from the Greek philosophical Sophia? Have we seen in recent times in Sophiological development a drawing together of Athens and Rome as envisioned by Emmanuel Levinas?

[1] Casten L Wilke, “The Soul is a Foreign Woman: Otherness and Psychological Allegory from the Zohar to Hasidism” The Bible and its World, Rabbinic Literature and Jewish Law, and Jewish Thought Volume 1 (Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 2008), 129-130.

[2] Howard Schwartz, “The Quest for the Lost Princess: Transition and Change in Jewish Lore”, Judaism 43.3 (Summer 1994), 242.

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