We might expect that centuries of sages would have compiled copious catchphrases covering everything we need to know about wisdom.
But while biblical sources show us where to start: “The beginning of wisdom is fear of G-d,” we soon get bogged down in a mass of diverging advice. Who is wise? Maybe the person who “learns from all people” or alternatively the one “who perceives the results of their actions” (ro’eh es hanolad). A further Mishnah in Avot lists seven identifying characteristics of a chacham – though many would seem merely to reflect good manners and organization.
On some occasions chachma-related teachings appear downright bizarre: “say to wisdom – you are my sister.” While chachma bagoyim ta’amin (you can accept that non-Jews have wisdom), wisdom of the Greeks remains strictly off-limits. One’s chachma-possessing child can be expected – at least on Seder night – to inquire: “What are the remembrances, statutes, and laws that Hashem, our G-d, has commanded you?”
Perhaps the key lies in Rambam’s introduction to the Moreh: Real chachma involves being able to decode and explain riddles. Starting, it would seem, with the ability to navigate and reconcile the sages’ various chachma-orientated teachings.