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I am fond of translating Proverbs 9:10 this way:

The worshipful awe of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

It’s no wonder then that I would resonate with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s understanding of “radical amazement” as another way to understand what it means to enter the spiritual life. He writes:

“The surest way to suppress our ability to understand the meaning of God and the importance of worship is to take things for granted. Indifference to the sublime wonder of living is the root of sin. Wonder or radical amazement is the chief characteristic of the religious man’s attitude toward history and nature. One attitude is alien to his spirit: taking things for granted, regarding events as a natural course of things. To find an approximate cause of a phenomenon is no answer to his ultimate wonder. He knows that there are laws that regulate the course of natural processes; he is aware of the regularity and pattern of things. However, such knowledge fails to mitigate his sense of perpetual surprise at the fact that there are facts at all…”

What to do in a Disenchanted World

“As civilization advances, the sense of wonder declines. Such decline is an alarming symptom of our state of mind. Mankind will not perish for want of information; but only for want of appreciation. The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living. What we lack is not a will to believe but a will to wonder.

Awareness of the divine begins with wonder… Wonder or radical amazement is therefore a prerequisite for an authentic awareness of that which is.

Radical amazement has a wider scope than any other act of man. While any act of perception or cognition has as its object a selected segment of reality, radical amazement refers to all of reality; not only to what we see, but also to the very act of seeing as well as to our own selves, to the selves that see and are amazed at their ability to see.”

The Grandeur of Being

“Grandeur or mystery is something with which we are confronted everywhere and at all times…

Even the very act of thinking baffles our thinking, just as every intelligible fact is, by virtue of its being a fact, drunk with baffling aloofness. Does not mystery reign within reasoning, within perception, within explanation? What formula could explain and solve the enigma of the very fact of thinking?

Who is Man?“, 1965

Therefore I may as well translate Proverbs 9:10 this way:

The radical amazement of the Lord is the beginning of the spiritual life.

This is more Enigma than Dogma

We live in a “disenchanted” earth, writes Jonathan Grant, “a morally neutral sphere on which we walk unconnected to and unencumbered by others” (or so we think). Perhaps the recovery of radical amazement will “re-enchant” us for creation and with the Creator – the One who made us for Himself.

For more see “The Radical Gospel“.