Get Rich Quick SchemeBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Evil people are doomed to flee even when no one is pursuing them, but the righteous stand firm, as bravely as a lion. (This mirrors the concept found in “The Tochacha,” the rebuke in Leviticus 26. Those who disobey G-d will flee without pursuers chasing them – Lev. 26:17. Those who heed G-d will have no fear – Lev. 26:6-8.) It is a punishment for the nation to have many leaders, who are a burden to them; a wise person who can inspire the people to repent can forestall a catastrophe. A poor judge (poor in the sense of “not a good one”) who oppresses a poor person in judgment (poor in the sense of “impoverished”) is like a torrential downpour that washes away the crops. People who forsake the Torah are assisting the wicked in their goals, but those who remain true to the Torah continue to battle the forces of evil.
Evil people do not understand; if they did, they’d give up their evil ways! Those who seek G-d “get it.” It’s better to be poor and innocent than rich from deceit. (Using wealth in its ongoing sense as a metaphor for Torah, it’s better to be ignorant and righteous than learned and evil.) A son who follows his father’s footsteps in Torah honors his parents, but one who leaves the path in order to pursue worldly pleasures puts his parents to shame. A person who enriches himself through usury will find his money confiscated and given to benefit the poor. (Rashi quotes a Midrash that he will be heavily taxed and the money will be used to build roads and bridges, which benefit the poor.)
A person who turns away from hearing words of Torah utters unacceptable prayers. One who attempts to mislead the righteous will fall into his own trap. A rich man considers himself wise – after all, he’s rich, right? – but an understanding poor person can see right through him. (Rashi applies this verse to clever students, who sharpen their teachers’ skills.) When the righteous prosper, everybody benefits, but when the wicked get the upper hand, the people will undergo all sorts of trials. A person can’t conceal his sins from G-d; he should confess and repent in order to get a clean slate.
A person who fears punishment is fortunate, as this keeps him far from sin. A person who has “screwed up his courage” in this matter is headed for trouble. An evil person with authority is like a vicious animal. An unwise ruler will be a tyrant, but one who hates to benefit by oppressing others will thrive. One who causes another to sin and leave the path of Torah will seek aid in repenting from this until his dying day, but he won’t get any help from G-d. (Why should he merit a Heavenly afterlife reward after sending others in the opposite direction?)
One who works will enjoy the fruits of his labors, but one who wastes his time will have nothing to show for it. A person who gives charity faithfully will enjoy many blessings, but one who tries to get rich quickly by profiting from the poor will be severely punished. It’s not good for a judge to play favorites; unfortunately, people are swayed by the smallest of bribes. G-d would rather people rebuke one another on His behalf than speak words of flattery. A person who justifies stealing from his parents is a source of destruction. (Metaphorically, one’s “father” is G-d and one’s “mother” is the Jewish people. It is shameful to “steal” from G-d – such as by not saying a blessing before food – and to “steal” from the nation – such as by leading them into sin.)
It’s foolish to follow your heart rather than your brain – that is to follow your own ideas instead of what G-d has instructed us. The generous person will have all he needs, but those who hide their eyes from seeing the poor will lose their fortunes. When the wicked are in control, good people hide, but when their time is through, the righteous emerge and their numbers increase.