Proverbs – Chapter 22

Teach Your Children Well

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Your name and reputation are potentially more valuable than gold and silver. Don’t be too impressed by either wealth or poverty, because those decisions are made by G-d. A clever person sees the potential to commit a sin and hides from the possibility of transgressing it; a fool plunges in head first and pays the price for it. A humble person will be led in turn to deference to G-d, wealth, honor and life. Traps are set to catch those whose ways are twisted; a person who avoids these traps will save his own life.

Teach a child according to his own individual needs and he will retain the lessons even into his old age. A rich man (in Torah, i.e., a scholar) will lead a poor man (i.e., one who is unlearned), who must go to him for knowledge. A person who plants injustice will harvest violence; he will lose his influence over others. The generous, who give food from their own mouths to feed the poor, will be blessed for it. Get rid of a troublemaker and controversy will cease. (Rashi says the troublemaker is the yetzer hara, our inclination to do wrong.)

If someone loves the pure of heart, who speak wisely, he will earn the favor of G-d, Who also loves such people. G-d makes special note of the wise, and preserves them. He does not, however, let the plots of the treacherous come to fruition. A lazy person doesn’t want to work, so he fabricates excuses. The mouth of a strange woman (a recurring metaphor for heresy) is like a deep pit; those whose actions have earned G-d’s ire will fall into it. Children by nature do stupid things, but they can be trained to behave more intelligently. A person who exploits a poor person in order to enrich himself will end up turning around and handing his money over to others more powerful than he is.

Learn Torah from anyone who knows it, but only emulate the deeds of the righteous. It will be good for you when you have internalized these teachings and you speak them freely. Solomon has made it clear that one should place his trust in G-d and learn Torah, not worrying that it will impact on one’s income. There are three sections to Tanach – the Bible – Torah, Neviim and Kesuvim (The Law, The Prophets, and The Writings), each replete with knowledge, wisdom and words of truth that one may use.

Do not oppress the weak because G-d will take up their cause and avenge them. Don’t befriend angry, quick-tempered people, as their bad habits will rub off on you and trap you. Don’t co-sign a loan if you can’t afford to pay when the borrower defaults. Do not remove the protective barriers established by the earlier generations. Finally, have you ever seen a person enthusiastic at his job? That’s someone who will succeed.

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