Mishlei 15

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Who is Rich?

Solomon tells us that a gentle reply can appease an angry person. Wise people say things that increase knowledge, while foolish people spout nonsense. G-d sees everything, both good and bad, and pays people accordingly. A person's words can be used to heal or to destroy. Fools hate it when their parents attempt to correct their behavior; those who accept the rebuke become more clever.

The house of a righteous man is full of strength, but it is ruined by what the evil man brings into it. (Rashi says that this refers to the Temple, which David planned and financed, but which would be ruined when Menashe established idols in it.) G-d would rather have simple prayer from righteous people (like Moses) than sacrifices from the wicked (like Balaam). G-d loves the actions of righteous people, but He hates it when people pursue evil and He will harshly rebuke them. G-d knows what is in every person's heart, as well as their ultimate fates.

Those who mock don't like being chastised for their actions, so they don't approach the wise for advice. If one's actions please G-d, He will do things to please that person, but if they "sadden" Him, He will do things that break that person's spirit. Wise people pursue knowledge, but fools are perfectly content with their nonsense. If a person is not satisfied with his lot, his entire life is miserable, but if he considers himself wealthy, he is always content. (Compare this with the mishna in the fourth chapter of Avos: "Who is considered wealthy? The one who is satisfied with what he has.") It is better to have a little, acquired honestly, than to have a lot, acquired through dishonest means. It is better to eat a simple meal and be friendly than to gorge on a feast with hard feelings.

Angry people escalate arguments, but calm people avoid controversy. To a lazy person, the road to a goal appears full of obstacles, but the righteous see their path as clear. A wise child makes his parents proud, but a foolish one embarrasses them. (People attribute his foolishness to his upbringing, which reflects poorly on the parents.) Foolish people wander aimlessly, all over the place, but the wise head straight towards their goals. The plans of fools fail because they don't seek advice. It's good to ask questions in a timely fashion!

The path of life leads wise people up, away from the grave. G-d will uproot the arrogant (even though he appears strong), but He will make the widow stand firm, despite her apparent helplessness. Those who pursue wealth by any means are a curse to their own families; those who shun even gifts from people, preferring to rely on G-d than on man, will receive the gift of life from Him. A righteous person thinks before he speaks, an evil person spews venom at will. G-d distances Himself from the prayers of evil people, but happily accepts the prayer of the righteous.

Study of Torah makes one's eyes bright and gladdens the heart. A person who hears what G-d wants and acts upon it will live among others who have heeded this wisdom. To reject this guidance is to reject life itself. Deference to G-d is the way of wisdom; if one humbles himself before G-d's will, he will enjoy honor in the long run.

Author: Rabbi Jack Abramowitz