Avraham ben Yaakov


Our chapter is made up of three sections each warning against a specific type of flaw or evil, followed by another section listing some of the worst offenses in God's eyes and then a discourse on the Torah as the general remedy against the "woman of evil" who tempts man to sin.

Vv 1-5: "My son, if you are guarantor for your friend, if you have struck your palms for the stranger." On the simple level this section gives advice to one who has already borrowed from someone or entered into some financial obligation, telling him not to rest until he has paid what he owes. On the allegorical level, Rashi explains that at Sinai every Israelite became a "guarantor" for the "friend" =God, and is therefore under an obligation to keep the Torah. After receiving the Torah it is a most serious offence to have "struck your palms" (=shaken hands) with "the stranger", i.e. to backslide and turn from His ways and attach oneself to the heretics to go in their ways.

The advice is to humble oneself before Him like a doorstep (that everyone treads on) and to send many "friends" (advocates) to pray to and placate Him on our behalf. Just as one puts oneself in a dangerous position on the material plane if one fails to repay one's debts (in accordance with the MASHAL, simile/metaphor of having borrowed), so one stands to loose greatly on the spiritual plane if one does not repent of one's sins after having been chosen by God to receive the Torah (this is the NIMSHAL, the subject of the comparison).

In this case the evil has already been done - the situation is BEDI-AVAD, "after the event" - but it is still possible to repair. One must do so swiftly. As to not shaking hands with and entering into a commitment to "the stranger", the Chassidim say that there is only one promise that it is permitted and indeed imperative to break, and that is a promise one has made to one's evil inclination to do something wrong!

Vv 6-11: "Go to the ant, you sluggard." Here King Solomon develops the counsel of alacrity with which the previous section ended, preaching against another evil - that of laziness, inertia and apathy, which can cause a person to loose all the great riches he stands to gain from serving God in this world. The Midrash brings a beautiful story about how King Solomon went traveling with his entourage on a flying carpet and, on landing, squashed many ants. Bending down to listen to the queen of the ants' complaint, the king was deeply chastised on hearing that everything in creation has something teach us, including even the humble little ant.

Vv 12-15: The concept of the "base" man - ADAM BELIYA'AL - is just about the worst in the moralistic vocabulary of the Torah (Deut. 13:14, I Samuel 25:25, I Kings 21:13 etc.). Here it is applied to the person who speaks evil, LASHON HARA, about others, both with his mouth and through the hints he makes with his eyes, feet, fingers, etc., thereby sowing discord among people. Rashi (on vv 13-14) explains that this section is also speaking about the heretics who seduce people into idolatry, thereby sowing discord between man and his Creator.

Vv 16-19: "There are six things which HaShem hates and seven which are an abomination to Him." Rashi (on v 16) explains that the "seven" is the seventh abomination. The written text (KSIV) says TO'AVOS in the plural but the prescribed reading (KRI) is TO'AVAS, which is the singular possessive, the "abomination of His soul". This implies that the seventh is as bad as all the first six together. The six are (1) high eyes - pride; (2) a tongue of falsehood; (3) hands that shed innocent blood; (4) a heart that dwells on thoughts of criminality; (5) legs that run to do evil; (6) a false witness. The seventh, which is as bad as all of them put together, is one who sows discord between brothers through evil speech.

Vv 20-26: These verses teach that steadfast devotion to Torah and its commandments is the general remedy against all evil, and particularly against the "woman of evil", who is the worst enemy of the soul. Rashi (on v 24) emphasizes that this can only be interpreted allegorically as referring to heresy and idolatry.

Among these beautiful verses containing King Solomon's praises of the Torah are some that are very famous and widely quoted in Torah literature. V 22 is darshened in Pirkey Avot 6:10 as alluding to how the Torah protects one even in the grave and when one wakes up in the world to come.

Vv 27ff: "Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?" The sin of going with the wife of a friend (v 28) is taken literally by Rashi and also as an allusion to going after idolatry, which is set apart for heathens and not for you (see Rashi ad loc.). Adultery/idolatry is much worse than stealing, which a person resorts to because he is hungry. Even so, he has to pay back heavily: how much more will the idolater/adulterer have to pay a heavy penalty for a sin which there was no need to commit.


Again King Solomon urges us to bind and attach ourselves to the Torah, and to make Torah CHOCHMAH-wisdom and BINAH-understanding integral parts of our lives, as familiar to us as our closest relatives and dearest friends. The Torah is the only true protection against the allurements of the "strange woman", which are the main subject of this chapter.

"For at the window of my house I looked out through my lattice." The wise Solomon looks out at the world and tells us what he sees:

"And I saw among the simple ones (PETHA'IM), I discerned among the youths, a young man (NA'AR) void of understanding." (v 7). It is mainly to the PETHI, "naïve, gullible" and the NA'AR, lit. "youth" that Solomon's MUSSAR, moralistic reproof, is addressed. This is because the villain (EVEEL, KH'SEEL, BELIYA'AL etc.) and the scoffer (LEITZ) are normally so bent on their evil that their ears are closed to reproof. The PETHI and NA'AR on the other hand are still innocent - too innocent, because they are inexperienced and easily seduced. They do not understand that the smiling face of evil is a deceptive front concealing its real essence and the long term destruction it brings.

Vv 19-20: "For the man is not in his house, he has gone on a long journey; he has taken a bag of money with him." Rashi says that the husband not being in the house alludes to how the Holy One blessed be He has withdrawn his Indwelling Presence (through the destruction of the Temple and Israel's exile) and has given all the good (of this world) to the nations. Rashi says that the "bag of money" he has taken refers to the good people whose lives He has taken. In the light of Rashi's explanations, we can understand better how the evil inclination needles the exiled Israelites to turn astray from the Torah when they see the great material success of the nations in a world where the Shechinah is concealed and where innocent people apparently suffer and die.

Vv 22f: Bitter is the end of anyone who goes after the "strange woman", and this is why the "children" should listen to the warnings of the loving Father not to go after her.

V 26: "For she has cast down many wounded, and many strong men have been slain by her." In case some women take offense because the evil inclination is repeatedly personified as a "strange WOMAN", let it be noted that the Talmud clearly and explicitly darshens this verse as referring to MALE Torah scholars who are not fit to teach and rule yet still tell people what to do, thereby killing them spiritually (Sotah 22b). May the Almighty lovingly guide us to the true Tzaddik so that we will not go astray!



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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