Proverbs – Chapter 23

The Morning After

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

More words of wisdom from Solomon:

When dining with powerful people, understand who it is sitting across the table from you. If he’s stingy and you gorge yourself on his food, you might as well just stab yourself with your knife. Instead of nourishing you, such a meal will be detrimental.

Don’t tire yourself out to become rich because you’ll blink and it will all disappear. (As elsewhere, Rashi says that wealth is a metaphor for Torah. If you “cram” in your studies, you will not retain what you have learned.)

Solomon returns to the subject of dining with a miser. If you do, you won’t enjoy it because you’ll be too self-conscious. The bitterness of the experience outweighs the taste of the food. Don’t bother speaking words of wisdom to a fool; it’s a waste of time. If anything, he’ll resent it! Do not remove the boundaries that earlier generations have established for us and don’t try to deprive orphans of their property because, though they may be powerless, G-d looks out for them and He is supremely powerful.

Solomon encourages the reader to be receptive to words of wisdom intended to correct one’s ways. Do not fear to rebuke your child appropriately; it may be painful for a parent to do, but discipline won’t kill a child and it will keep him away from worse fates. (It goes without saying that one should not chastise a child with uncalled-for harshness.) Solomon says that if the reader’s heart has become wise by heeding his words, then his own heart will rejoice; he will likewise rejoice when the reader has learned to speak things that are upright. Don’t be jealous that sinners are having more fun; keep on doing the right thing. Keeping what G-d has instructed us ensures that one has a future. If you internalize wisdom, your heart will always lead you in the right direction.

Don’t hang out with gluttons or drunkards, as their ways lead to ruin, the same as a person who is too lazy to earn a living. Listen to the Torah your parents have taught you; since they brought you up, they have your best interests at heart. Furthermore, don’t disregard their words when they’ve grown older. The parents of children who are righteous and wise will have cause to rejoice.

Solomon asks the reader to give him not just his ear, but his heart. Stay away from promiscuous women, who can draw one in like falling in a well. (This advice works on both the literal level and the metaphorical level of avoiding heretical ideas.) You know who gets into arguments? A person who talks too much. And you know who’s a mess? The one who stayed out drinking the night before. The wine looks good in the cup – and everything looks good when one is under the influence – but in the end, the habit will come back to bite heavy drinkers. They will see things that aren’t as they appear and they will make some bad decisions. Of course, once a drunk no longer feels the consequences of his drinking, he’ll get sloshed again and resume the cycle all over.

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