Yet emotionally, it's hard to internalize this.
Furthermore, other people can discourage us by overemphasizing out how far we need to go, how high we need to climb, or how much work we need to do in order to accomplish our goals.
They can do this mockingly too.
But whether the discouraging words come from ourselves or others, we've all heard the following:
- "My efforts don't really matter in the end."
- "It's too much."
- "There's no point in even starting."
- "It's impossible, so why bother?"
- "Only really great people/tzaddikim/chachamim can do that."
Such a person feels (or causes others to feel) discouraged before even taking that first step.
Yet in Mishlei/Proverbs 17:24, Shlomo Hamelech/King Solomon labels such a person as a "kasil."
According to Malbim, what is a kasil exactly?
Usually translated as "fool," a kasil is the kind of fool who understands what Malbim calls chukei hachachma/the laws of wisdom. He doesn't question the sensible stuff that anyone can understand.
(Malbim frequently defines kasil. One place is Mishlei 12:23.)
But his desires lead him to deviate from or distort his view of things.
I'm guessing that a kasil is the kind of person who knows exactly what smoking does to the body, yet smokes anyway.
A kasil is presumably the kind of person who, despite all evidence to the contrary, convinces himself that "just this one time/one drink/one thing won't hurt" or "Yeah, but I'm different..."
So here is Mishlei 17:24:
אֶת-פְּנֵי מֵבִין חָכְמָה; וְעֵינֵי כְסִיל, בִּקְצֵה-אָרֶץ
"Et p'nei mavin chachmah v'einei kasil biktzeh aretz."
"Directly before the understanding person is wisdom; and the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth."
"...There is no wisdom found before me because it's far from me. How will I be able to learn Seder Nezikin, which is 30 chapters, 30 chapters of Masechet Keilim, 24 chapters of Masechet Shabbat?"
But for a wise person, it is an easy thing: "Today, I learn two chapters. And tomorrow, two. And I shall say, 'This is how they accomplished these, those who accomplished before me from time immemorial'."
- The kasil (the discouraged fool in denial): "Whine, whine, whine, kvetch, kvetch, kvetch, self-defeatist talk, blah, blah, blah."
- The chacham (the wise person): "I will do as much as I can at a time, even if it's only a little bit. That is exactly how all the great chachamim started out since the beginning of time. Baby-steps was their way of accomplishing--and therefore, the correct and wise way to proceed."
Please note that at this point, the person whom both Shlomo Hamelech and Rashi are calling "chacham" does not yet know the Mishnah or Gemara! (Or at least, these particular areas of the Mishnah or Gemara.)
Yet this person is still called "chacham."
The chacham tries.
The kasil does not.
Be a chacham, not a kasil.
Hang out with chachamim, not kasilim.
Listen to chachamim, and not kasilim.
Yet once again, Judaism tells us that:
We aren't defined by our success so much as we are defined by our efforts.