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Poster Commentary
"Who is wise? One who learns from all people. Who is honored? One who honors everyone."Ben-Zoma, Pirke Avot 4:1
Poster design:Alan Peckolick


by Irving Greenberg

Who is wise? One who learns from all people.

Is the supply of knowledge limited? If so, to be wise would be to master a body of information.

Judaism teaches that life is dynamic and growing. The world is infinite, evolving, as yet unfinished. Therefore, what we know today is but a fraction of what there is to know. Whatever wisdom we accrue can guide us—but cannot account for all that is new and emerging. What is wise in one situation may be foolish in another. To attain wisdom, then, is to know our limits.

Wisdom is a process, not an answer. The wise man knows how much he does not know, so he constantly seeks to learn new things. The wise woman has developed understanding by listening to and learning from others.

Who is honored? One who honors others.

The direct pursuit of honor cannot produce successful results. In grasping for honor, in trying to impress others of how worthy we are, we are tempted to do the dishonorable. We exaggerate our own importance and minimize that of others, thereby diminishing ourselves.

Like happiness, honor is often the outcome of a process that involves others. Bringing goodness into the world, working constructively, or loving in a meaningful relationship are all keys to both happiness and honor. The best way to obtain happiness or honor is to give it to others.

Conversation Guide


These famous teachings of the second-century sage Ben-Zoma emphasize the mutuality in human relationships. The commentary suggests that, according to Ben-Zoma, both wisdom and honor can be attained only when we involve others—learning from them or honoring them.

What other answers could you compose to Ben-Zoma’s questions, “who is wise?” and “who is honored?” How do Ben-Zoma’s answers differ from yours?

Why might Ben-Zoma emphasize that the wise person must learn “from all people”? Why not just from other wise people?

Similarly, Ben-Zoma teaches that to be honored, you must honor everyone. Why doesn’t it suffice to honor those who deserve it?

Can you share a personal experience with one of these teachings?



Each image calls out to us to examine it, to note our thoughts and feelings, and relate these impressions to the quotation. Often clues in the artwork suggest meaning and invite interpretation.

Alan Peckolick’s work uses a simple design, minimal images, and a variety of fonts and colors to depict Ben-Zoma’s teachings. 

How does the image present the quotation? Was this how you interpreted the quotation without the image?

How do fonts and colors play a role in depicting the quotation?

What is the significance of the two yads (Torah pointers)? Why are they pointing in opposite directions?    


Copyright© 2012 Harold Grinspoon Foundation

Please use this guide creatively in your programs.  We’d also love to see what you’re doing and share it with others, so please post on our website using the Share button in The Exchange.


Masters Series©2012, Alan Peckolick, Quote: Ben-Zoma, Pirke Avot 4:1,

Harold Grinspoon Foundation, West Springfield, MA