V 1: "The wicked flee when no-one pursues [they will be easily routed on their day of doom, Rashi], but the righteous are as secure as a young lion [the Tzaddik strengthens his heart in God, Rashi]." While the English translation renders the main sense of the verse, it misses an interesting nuance in the original, where the Hebrew word for "wicked" is a singular form (RASHA) while the verb "flee" (NASOO) is a plural form, and conversely the Hebrew word for "righteous" is a plural (TZADDIKIM) while the verb rendered as "are. secure" (YIVTACH) is in fact singular. This seems to imply that each wicked person is alone unto himself but collectively they will all flee, while the Tzaddikim are together and united, but each one has the strength and confidence of a young lion!

V 2: "For the transgression of the land, many are its princes." - "This is the punishment of the land, when its officers are many and they pursue only their own gain" (Rashi). This applies directly to the present-day government of Israel , where prime ministers patch together their shaky coalitions by creating ever more ministries to provide "jobs for the boys". It may also be safely assumed that the many grotesque publicized cases of corruption at the highest levels of government represent only the tip of the iceberg of the corruption that actually exists.

V 3: The "poor man" who oppresses the weak is the judge who is an AM HA-ARETZ (=Torah ignoramus). This would be a fair description of the great majority of the judges of the Israeli High Court ("BAGATZ"), who have been notorious for trampling on the laws of the Torah since the inception of the state.

V 4: "Those who have abandoned the Torah praise the wicked, but those who observe the Torah contend with them." It would be interesting to use this proposition to analyze the heroes of secular Israel and those who have forced the Torah observant to contend with them.

V 5: Even when punishments befall the wicked, they do not understand that this is to requite their evil because they think everything comes by chance. But the righteous understand that everything comes from Heaven, and they are able to understand why and for what reason, because they do not attribute anything to chance (Metzudas David).

V 8: Profiting from taking interest on loans to fellow Israelites is considered one of the most serious transgressions of the Torah. The verse says that the profits will go to "him that is gracious to the poor". Midrash Tanchuma interprets this as the government, which on hearing of someone's great wealth confiscates his profits and uses them to build bridges and repair the roads to benefit the public. It will indeed be a great comfort when our governments really do take the exorbitant profits of the bankers and lenders and use them for the genuine benefit of the poorer sectors of society.

V 9: One who willfully flouts the Torah cannot expect his prayers to be heard.

V 11: "This verse is speaking about a teacher and a student: when the student scrutinizes what the teacher says, this makes the teacher wise!" (Rashi).

V 12: "At a time when the righteous rejoice because they enjoy great success and everything is done according to their instructions, great is the beauty and harmony of the place because the voice of the oppressor is not heard. But when the wicked rise to rule, it is then that 'a man is sought out,' because these wicked people seek them out to steal their possessions" (Metzudas David). Another way in which many smaller players tend to be "sought out" in the corrupt political life of our times is through being submitted to grueling trials by the public media over often tiny misdemeanors while the big fish are left to get away with murder.

V 13: It is best to own up and confess to one's wrong-doing and to let go of it: this is what elicits God's compassion.

V 14: When a person is fearful of the punishment for sin, this keeps him away from sin (Rashi).

V 17 refers to a person who leads another astray, causing him to lose his soul: the person who caused him to stumble may flee for help and atonement until the day of his death, but Heaven will not allow him to repent so that he should not sit in the Garden of Eden while his student is in hell (Yoma 87a).

V 20: The "faithful man who abounds with blessings" is the person who gives his tithes to the poor "in faith" - i.e. he gives what he is obliged to give even though there is no witness to see exactly how much he gives. But God sees and multiplies his blessings (Rashi).

V 21 is addressed to the judge, cautioning him to have no respect for person and not to take bribes - for how can a person twist judgment for a mere morsel of bread???

V 23: "One who rebukes a man shall in the end find more favor than one who flatters with the tongue" - "Anyone who rebukes his neighbor for the sake of heaven attains a share in God, and not only that, but a thread of kindness is drawn down upon him" (Tamid 28a).

V 24: "One who robs his father and his mother and says, 'There is no transgression', is a companion of the destroyer" - ".his father." is the Holy One blessed be He; ".his mother." is the Assembly of Israel. One who causes the public to sin robs God, separating His children from Him, and robs them of goodness. The "destroyer" is Jeraboam (Rashi). This verse is also applied to a person who eats or has some other enjoyment from the world without making the appropriate BRACHAH (blessing) (Berachos 35a).

V 27: One does not lose from giving a poor man help.


V 4: "With justice does the king establish the land, but he that exacts gifts overthrows it" - "If the judge is like someone who does not need to buy lovers and take bribes, he will establish the land, but if he is like a priest going round to all the barns to ask for tithes, he will destroy it" (Kesubos 105b).

V 7: "The righteous knows the cause (DIN) of the poor." - he knows the suffering of the poor and what they require, and he gives his heart to them" (Rashi).

V 8: The way of the scoffers is to foment strife, setting everywhere on fire, while the way of the righteous is to mediate peace and turn away people's wrath against their brothers.

V 11: "A fool spends all his spirit, but the wise man stills it afterwards." When having to argue with a fool, it is often best to let him pour out everything he has to pour out before answering wisely in order to still him.

V 12: "If a ruler listens to falsehood, all his servants are wicked" - "When the ruler listens to falsehood or accepts slanderous reports, all his attendants then turn into villains because in order to find favor in his eyes they give him slanderous reports and sin with their very souls" (Metzudas David). Parents, teachers, managers and leaders etc. who must constantly listen to what their children/students/workforce etc. have to say about each other should take careful note of Solomon's wisdom here.

V 13: "The poor man and the oppressor (ISH TECHOCHIM) meet together; HaShem enlightens the eyes of both of them." Metzudas David interprets the word rendered "oppressor" as someone that has been beaten down and broken, explaining that whether a person was born poor or was originally born rich but afterwards lost his wealth and was broken by the "illness" of poverty, this is not by chance. Everything comes from heaven through God's decree, and likewise if they afterwards become wealthy, this too is God's decree. Rashi interprets the ISH TECHOCHIM as a master of Torah, while the "poor man" is his student. When the student asks the teacher to teach him a chapter and the teacher does so, "God enlightens the eyes of both of them.

Vv 15 & 17: "The rod and reproof give wisdom." "Correct your son and he will give you rest." - "If you do so, you will not get angry on his account and you will yet rejoice over his deeds" (Metzudas David). King Solomon taught the opposite of the widespread present-day philosophy of leaving children without moral direction.

V 18: "When there is no vision, the people cast off restraint." - "When Israel cause prophecy to depart from them through insulting the prophets, they breach holes in the walls and go astray" (Rashi). Part of the medicine is for us to study the prophets!!!

V 21: "When a person spoils his servant from youth, in the end he will be a ruler" - The "servant" is the evil urge (Rashi).

V 25: Is it the snare that causes man's fear, or his fear that causes a snare? The Hebrew can be read both ways, but Rashi's preferred interpretation is that the snare of a sin causes fear in man, i.e. if a person has sinned, this causes him to fear. This can be the key to many of people's phobias.

V 26: Many people try to accomplish their goals by trying to "pull strings" and use the influence of those in positions of power, but in truth, whatever a person attains is decreed by God and instead of appealing for help from flesh and blood it would be better to start by appealing to the true Judge.



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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