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100 Jewish Proverbs to Enrich Your Life

Because Jewish culture is a parcel of the very meaning of being Hebrew, these ancient peoples have devised many sayings and maxims over the centuries. These come as a huge collection of proverbs for everyone to consider, analyze and live by.  

The Jewish people are lovers of learning, wisdom, and intelligence. In fact, proverbs stem from the Jewish tradition and value of education, including from religious texts such as the Zohar, the Torah, and Talmud. But Jewish proverbs also come from the wisdom of unknown rabbis and colloquial sayings. These intend to enrich our lives and ennoble our understanding of the human condition. 

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The 100 Jewish proverbs provided below are some of the most poignant and comprehensive. In the event they truly inspire you to understand more, there’s a whole world to explore. This article divides them into two categories: traditional and modern. 

Traditional Jewish Proverbs 

Traditional Jewish proverbs are those you find in religious texts or ones that are common, long-time ones found throughout the culture’s history. No one really knows who wrote these or where certain common phrases began. But one thing is clear – they are quintessentially Jewish. 

1. From the Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 

To initiate this section of Jewish proverbs, we’ll start with the Book of Mishlei. Also known as the “Proverbs of King Solomon,” this is the classic compilation of Jewish proverbs stemming from religious texts. There are literally thousands of these, but the ones below are some of the most thought-provoking. 

A lot of these discuss education, knowledge, wisdom, learning, foolishness, selfishness, greed, and other human concepts. They lend themselves to deeper critical thought. 

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“So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 1:19

“For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 1:32

“That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 2:20

“Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs: 3:13

“Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 3:25

“Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 3:29

“Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 3:31

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 4:7

“Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 4:14

“But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 4:18

“The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 4:19

“Lest thou shouldest ponder the path of life, her ways are moveable, that thou canst not know them.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 5:6

“For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 8:11

“Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 9:9

“The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 10:1

“Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 10:2

“Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 10:12

“The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 11:17

“The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 12:19

“The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 14:10

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 14:12

“Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 14:13

“In the multitude of people is the king’s honour: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 14:28

“A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 14:30

“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 16:18

“Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 16:19

“He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 16:32

“Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 17:5

“Children’s children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 17:6

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”

Book of Mishlei (Proverbs) 17:22

2. Advice for Life 

a star pendant in a branch

From here to the rest of the article are Jewish proverbs with attribution. While some may have borrowed from the Book of Mishlei, others are pure wisdom. 

“You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”  

Pirkei Avot 2:21

“A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.”  

Jewish Proverb

“A righteous man falls down seven times and gets up.”  

King Solomon, Proverbs, 24:16

“As you teach, you learn.”  

Jewish Proverb

“The world is a dark place for one who looks to the table of others [for his sustenance].”  

Rav, Beitza 32b

“Don’t live in a town where there are no doctors.”  

Jewish Proverb

“Between bad company and loneliness, the latter is preferable.”  

Sephardic Saying

“The themes of Proverbs are neatly summed up in Eshet Hayil [5] : build a worthy family, stay on the path of virtue, and you shall be rewarded.”  

Elana Roth

“Klieg, klieg, klieg—du bist a Nar. You are smart, smart, smart—but you are not so smart!”  

Yiddish Proverb

“First mend yourself, and then mend others.”  

Jewish Proverb

“Don’t look for more honor than your learning merits.”  

Jewish Proverb

“Make sure to be in with your equals if you’re going to fall out with your superiors.”  

Jewish Proverb

“Not to have felt pain is not to have been human.”  

Jewish Proverb

“Rejoice not at thine enemy’s fall – but don’t rush to pick him up either.”  

Jewish Proverb

“What you don’t see with your eyes, don’t invent with your mouth.”  

Jewish Proverb

3. Meditational Wisdom 

“Those who live near a waterfall, do not hear its roar.”  

Jewish Proverb

“A mother understands what a child does not say.”  

Jewish Proverb

“A pessimist, confronted with two bad choices, chooses both.”  

Jewish Proverb

“Don’t be sweet, lest you be eaten up; don’t be bitter, lest you be spewed out.”

Jewish Proverb 

“If the rich could hire the poor to die for them, the poor would make a very nice living.”  

Jewish Proverb 

4. Religious Musings 

“G-d is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”  

Psalms 46:1-3

“If God lived on earth, people would break his windows.”  

Jewish Proverb

“If not for fear, sin would be sweet.”  

Jewish Proverb

5. On Kindness & Discernment 

“Benevolence does not impoverish all and sundry.” 

Yiddish Saying

“As he thinks in his heart, so he is.”  

Jewish Proverb

“Do not be wise in words – be wise in deeds.”  

Jewish Proverb

“He that can’t endure the bad, will not live to see the good.”  

Jewish Proverb

“If charity cost nothing, the world would be full of philanthropists.”  

Jewish Proverb

Modern Jewish Proverbs 

menorah candle

The following proverbs are ones that come from famous personalities, respected rabbis and other prolific people. These are not necessarily religious or spiritual in nature but they definitely capture the imagination from a Jewish perspective. 

1. Wisdom for the Ages 

“If you’re behind the times, they won’t notice you. If you’re right in tune with them, you’re no better than they are, so they won’t care much for you. Be just a little ahead of them.”  

Shel Silverstein

“A creator is not in advance of his generation but he is the first of his contemporaries to be conscious of what is happening to his generation.” 

Gertrude Stein

“Man is wise only while in search of wisdom; when he imagines he has attained it, he is a fool.”

Solomon Ibn Gabirol 

“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.” 

Leonard Bernstein

“A person who takes a walk of 100 feet and a person who walks 2,000 miles have one major thing in common. They both need to take a first step before they take a second step.”  

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.”  

Alan Cohen

“Who is wise? He who learns from everyone.” 

Ben Zoma

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

Elie Wiesel 

“In spirituality, the searching is the finding and the pursuit is the achievement.” 

Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski

“The world is new to us every morning—and every man should believe he is reborn each day.”  

Baal Shem Tov

“Art does not exist only to entertain, but also to challenge one to think, to provoke, even to disturb, in a constant search for truth.”  

Barbra Streisand

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” 

Albert Einstein

“If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me, because I’d like to hear it again.”  

Groucho Marx

2. The Meaning of Life 

“One needs something to believe in, something for which one can have whole-hearted enthusiasm. One needs to feel that one’s life has meaning, that one is needed in this world.” 

Hannah Szenes

“Heaven and earth conspire that everything which has been, be rooted and reduced to dust. Only the dreamers, who dream while awake, call back the shadows of the past and braid nets from the unspun thread.”  

Isaac Bashevis Singer

“Everything we do in life is based on fear, especially love.” 

Mel Brooks

“Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.”  

Viktor Frankl

“If I am I because you are you, and you are you because I am I, then I am not I and you are not you. But if I am I because I am I, and you are you because you are you, then I am I and you are you.”

Rabbi Menachem Mendel 

“Our heads are round so thought can change direction.”  

Allen Ginsberg

“There is nothing so whole as a broken heart.” 

The Rebbe of Kotsk

“Man’s task in the world, according to Judaism, is to transform fate into destiny; a passive existence into an active existence; an existence of compulsion, perplexity and muteness into an existence replete with a powerful will, with resourcefulness, daring, and imagination.”

Rabbi Joseph Solovetchik

“The responsible life is one that responds. In the theological sense, it means that G-d is the question to which our lives are an answer.”  

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement… Get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”  

Abraham Joshua Heschel

“…Above all, remember that the meaning of life is to build a life as if it were a work of art. You’re not a machine. And you are young. Start working on this great work of art called your own existence.”

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel 

“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.”

Viktor Frankl 

3. Conquering Depression & Defeat 

jewish family

“Whenever feeling downcast, each person should vitally remember, ‘For my sake, the entire world was created.'”

Baal Shem Tov 

“We can endure much more than we think we can; all human experience testifies to that.”  

Rabbi Harold S. Kushner

“There is one respect in which each of us has precisely the same strength as Moses. Namely, the strength to choose. There is no hand of heaven—no physiological, genetic, psychological or Providential compulsion—that forces us to act one way rather than another. The fear of heaven is not in the hands of heaven; therefore, the fear of heaven is as live an option to us as it was to Moses. Here is indeed a thing which, if it is small for Moses is small for us.”  

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Tradition in an Untraditional Age

“I don’t speak because I have the power to speak; I speak because I don’t have the power to remain silent.” 

Rabbi A.Y. Kook

4. Personal Behavior & Conduct 

“Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.”  

Elie Wiesel

“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.”  

Leonard Cohen

“To be kind is more important than to be right. Many times what people need is not a brilliant mind that speaks but a special heart that listens.”  

Rabbi Menachem Mendel

“There is divine beauty in learning, just as there is human beauty in tolerance. To learn means to accept the postulate that life did not begin at my birth. Others have been here before me, and I walk in their footsteps. The books I have read were composed by generations of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, teachers and disciples. I am the sum total of their experiences, their quests. And so are you.”  

Elie Wiesel

“Every act of forgiveness mends something broken in this fractured world. It is a step, however small, in the long, hard journey to redemption.”  

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”  

Golda Meir 

“If you are not a better person tomorrow than you are today, what need have you for a tomorrow?”  

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”  

Albert Einstein

“Don’t be afraid of discovering that the ‘real you’ may be different than the ‘current you.'”  

Rabbi Noah Weinberg

“Let the Good in me connect with the good in others, until the world is transformed through the compelling power of love.”  

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

“People often avoid making decisions out of fear of making a mistake. Actually, the failure to make decisions is one of life’s biggest mistakes.”  

Rabbi Noah Weinberg

“Home is the human heart. Our return to G-d is in no way separate from our return to ourselves, to the point of inward truth out of which our humanity shines forth.”

Arthur Greene 

Wrapping Up

Proverbs are basic truths conveying timeless sentiments to guide our lives. The ones coming from the Jewish culture and faith are some of the best and most poignant around. After all, they are famous for their contribution to the wisdom of the world and provide sound guidance for life.  

Check out our Italian and Scottish proverbs for more inspiration.  

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.