Proverbs – Chapter 20

Campaign Promises

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Solomon says that a person who drinks is one who mocks. He calls out for more booze and never acquires knowledge. The king is as mighty as a lion and to provoke his wrath is to invite one’s own demise. A wise person avoids controversy; when fools enter into arguments, they expose their ignorance. A lazy person doesn’t work, using the excuse that it’s too cold out; later on, they’ll have nothing to show for their efforts, because there were no efforts!

Teachings are deep in the hearts of the scholars, but wise students will draw them out. People flock towards those who make big promises, but how many of them many actually keep those promises? A person who behaves properly is considered righteous; his children will be praised and enjoy merit in his honor. When a king sits in judgment, all the evils of the world are laid out in front of him. (Rashi says that this verse can be understood as referring to G-d or to judges.) G-d knows when a person has sincerely repented and forsaken his evil ways. G-d hates when people have dishonest weights and measures, in order to cheat people.

Even a child can conceal his youthful immaturity by acting properly. G-d made the eye that sees and the ear that hears, so use them properly. Don’t love sleep too much because laziness leads to poverty. Wake up and your needs will be satisfied.

One who sacrifices in order to learn Torah may lament the things he has to give up, but when he has reached his goal, he can be proud of his accomplishments. Gold and jewels are valuable because they’re rare, but they’re still more common than mouths that speak wisely. The co-signer can be held responsible for the debtor, since he willingly accepted the role. Food obtained dishonestly may taste sweet at first, but it leaves a gritty aftertaste. (Rashi says that this verse metaphorically refers to adultery.) A person who makes a “battle plan” will succeed. (Rashi says this refers to the spiritual battle against temptations.) Don’t associate with gossips and other people who misuse their gift of speech.

Honoring parents brings great reward, so a person who curses his parents brings great darkness upon himself. One who hastily chooses his portion may have difficulties enjoying it. (Rashi gives us the example of the two and a half Tribes who chose their portion on the other side of the Jordan, before the rest of the nation. They were among the first to be exiled by Assyria, before most of the other Tribes.) Don’t plot revenge against those who have wronged you; put your trust in G-d and He’ll take care of things. G-d guides a person’s steps; ultimately, man is not in control. A person who sins makes himself less holy and he must take the appropriate steps to return his soul to its proper condition.

G-d, in His wisdom, separates evil people and uses their own evil characteristics against them. (Rashi uses the example of Pharaoh and his army.) A person’s soul testifies to G-d about that person’s actions. Acts of kindness and truth performed by a king are the things that will cause his dynasty to endure. Young men may be proud of their youthful strength, but old men can be proud of their acquired wisdom. Wounds and injuries come in response to a person’s acts of evil.

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