Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
PROVERBS CHAPTER 20
V 1: "Wine is a mocker" because it gives the drinker the feeling that his mind is expanded, but this is deceptive.
V 2: Whoever provokes the king - God - endangers himself.
V 3: People often get into an argument because they feel affronted, but man's true dignity is to restrain himself and avoid being drawn into a quarrel.
V 4: Because of the cold, the lazy man avoids "plowing" - i.e. exerting himself in Torah study - and as a result, when his time of need arrives, he finds himself lacking (Rashi).
V 5: The way of the wise man is to conceal his counsel in the depths of his heart (deep beneath the surface of his words), making it hard for others to grasp it. His counsel is like waters that lie deep beneath the surface of the earth and are hard to draw out. But "a man of understanding will draw it out": he starts by drawing out the upper waters - seeking to understand the surface meaning - and this will bring him to what lies below (Metzudas David).
V 6: Most people like to give the impression that they are very kind and considerate, but who can find people who not only promise but actually deliver?
V 8: When God sits on His throne of judgment, all men's evil is "spread out" and visible in front of His eyes, even what they do in secrecy (Metzudas David).
V 9: "Who can say. I am pure from my sin (CHATASI)?" The Hebrew word CHATASI can also mean, "I have sinned" - the opening word of the confession. Thus the verse can be construed as saying, "Who can say. I am pure in the way I make my confession before God?" for even as we confess to God we may have ulterior motives. We have to repent not only over our actual sins but even over our inadequate confessions of sin (Rabbi Nachman, Likutey Moharan I:6).
V 10: "Diverse weights and measures are both an abomination of God." When a person uses one set of criteria to judge his friends and a different set to judge his enemies and opponents, this is an abominable distortion of judgment. This occurs almost daily in international condemnations of Israeli behavior, yet we also should not allow our disgust at the abominations of others to justify our turning a blind eye to our own imperfections.
V 12: The ear and the eye are God's work. What He wants is an ear that listens to reproof and an eye that sees what is likely to develop out of one's different possible choices in life (Rashi).
V 13: Wealth and satisfaction (=Torah, good deeds and the enjoyment of the reward they bring) do not come to those who are lazy and like to sleep away their days.
V 14: During the bargaining before a purchase, the buyer downgrades the article in order to push down the price, but after the purchase he is proud of his ability to strike a good deal. Similarly, when a person seeks to attain the wisdom of the Torah despite poverty and hardship, he complains, but afterwards he will be overjoyed over the great good that he has gained (Metzudas David).
V 15: Gold and jewels may be expensive yet they are quite abundant in this world. What is really precious and rare is a mouth that speaks true wisdom! (Metzudas David).
V 16: While it is forbidden to enter the house of a borrower to take a pledge, it is permitted to enter the house of the guarantor of the loan in order to do so, since he willfully agreed to be a guarantor (Bava Metzia 115a).
V 18: "If you come to fight against the Satan, come with wise stratagems - repentance, prayer and fasting" (Rashi).
V 19: Don't open your heart to those who are indiscreet.
V 21: "An estate may be gotten hastily at the beginning but its end shall not be blessed" - Thus the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half Menasheh took their portion east of the R. Jordan before all the other tribes - and they went into exile before all the other tribes! (Rashi).
V 24: Our very footsteps are governed by God although we do not know it. "A man does not hurt even his little finger here below unless it is decreed against him from above" (Hullin 7b).
V 25: "When a man stumbles into sin, he causes a flaw to his own holiness, and he must then offer sacrifices in order to plead for his soul" (Rashi).
V 27: Man's own soul bears witness against him on the Day of Judgment (Rashi).
V 1: "The king's heart is in the hand of God: like watercourses, He turns it wherever He will." It should be comforting to know that the decisions made by the apparently self-willed rulers and leaders of this world are in fact all under God's complete control, and He will surely bring everything out right in the end!
V 2: People are naturally prejudiced in their own favor and rarely see their own guilt, but God knows the truth.
V 3: Even King Solomon, who built the Temple , the center for the offering of sacrifices, taught that what God really wants is not ritual atonement but charity and justice.
V 5: True gains come from toil and industry, while those who try to "get rich quick" are likely to end up lacking.
V 11: "Through witnessing the chastisements that befall the scoffers, the simple become wise and repent" (Rashi).
V 12: "The Righteous One considers the house of the wicked, overthrowing the wicked to their ruin." Metzudas David offers an interesting alternative p'shat (explanation): When a righteous person stands in the house of a wicked man, this righteous Tzaddik brings success to the house of the wicked man, who is blessed on account of the Tzaddik, and this itself causes the wicked man to continue doing evil, thinking that the blessing has been sent on his own account and that his behavior is good in God's eyes. Metzudas' explanation would open a chink into the mysteries of God's providence, whereby the wicked are deceived into continuing their pursuit of evil in this world in order to cause them to loose everything in the world to come.
V 14: Rabbi Hin'na Bar Papa used to distribute charity at night-time [when nobody could see him, thereby saving the recipients embarrassment]. One time the king of the demons approached him and said, "Have you not taught us, rabbi, that 'you shall not encroach on the boundary of your neighbor' (Deut. 19:14)? [I.e. why are you performing mitzvoth at night, which is the time of the demons?] He replied, "Is it not written, 'A gift in secrecy pacifies anger'? (Shekalim 15a).
V 15: "To do justly is joy to the righteous but ruin to the workers of iniquity" - "God's joy is to take retribution from the righteous in this world in order to give them merit for the life of the world to come, and the righteous rejoice when God chastises them in order for them to gain the life of the world to come. However chastisements do not avail the wicked because they do not take note and repent, and instead they only complain" (Rashi).
V 18: "The wicked is a ransom for the righteous" - "The righteous is saved and the wicked comes in his stead, such as in the case of Mordechai and Haman" (Rashi).
V 22: "A wise man scales the city of the mighty." - "This alludes to Moses, who ascended to heaven among the mighty angels, and brought down the Torah" (Rashi).
V 28: "A false witness shall perish, but the man that OBEYS shall speak unchallenged" - i.e. the man who OBEYS the Torah, which says, "You shall not bear false testimony against your neighbor" (Rashi).
V 31: Men may make their preparations for self-protection in the face of war, but ultimately salvation is from God alone.
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
© AZAMRA INSTITUTE 5767 - 2006-7 All rights reserved