July 10, 2020 ~ Sh PINEHAS. M SABA.

 Proverb of the Week - פתגם משלי השבוע

In Memory of Rabbi Amnon Haramati A"H

Tanakh Chairman at the Yeshivah of Flatbush High School

The following are Proverbs accompanied by a brief explanation.

Cold Waters

§ מַ֣יִם קָ֭רִים עַל־נֶ֣פֶשׁ עֲיֵפָ֑ה וּשְׁמוּעָ֥ה ט֝וֹבָ֗ה מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מֶרְחָֽק׃

Proverbs 25:25 translates: "Cold waters on a tired soul is good news from a far land." This verse is known to me, because it is the verse that my father, Matouk (מעתוק), reads before ending each Amida prayer (as per tradition of chanting a verse that starts with the first letter and ends with the last letter of one's name). In the past, with no phones for communication, one would have no way of knowing the whereabouts of loved ones separated across seas in far-away lands. There would be a constant uneasy feeling and distress in ones soul of not knowing how that family member is and whether or not they are safe on their journey. This verse captures the great feeling one gets when good news about a loved one abroad is relayed to them. Receiving good news is like the feeling of drinking refreshing cool water on a parched throat that is thirsty. In short, there is no better feeling for one's soul than to receive good news about loved ones and rest reassured that they are safe and successful. Beth Torah Bulletin, July 11, 2020.

A Good Life

§ כִּי־בִ֭י יִרְבּ֣וּ יָמֶ֑יךָ וְיוֹסִ֥יפוּ לְּ֝ךָ֗ שְׁנ֣וֹת חַיִּֽים׃

Proverbs 9:11 translates: "For through me, you will multiply your days; and you will add for you years of life". The words "through me" refers to wisdom. Meaning, those who pursue wisdom (more specifically, the wisdom of the Torah), they will have an extended life. According to Rashi, "life" refers to a good life; filled with earning and wealth, and not just a "long life" with no livelihood. The Messudat David explains that constantly engaging in the holy activities of the Torah, should allow for themselves more time to engage in good deeds, and this should lead to one having a better, more rewarding and fulfilling life. This verse is considered an extraordinary blessing, and we have a tradition of singing this to honor an individual when they finish an Aliyah to the Torah. We do not sing this to just anyone; only for distinguished individuals or those who are celebrating happy occasions. In my life, this verse was only sung to me once; when I finished my Aliyah after I got engaged. Beth Torah Bulletin, July 4, 2020.

A Close Friend or Neighbor

§ רֵֽעֲךָ֨ ורעה [וְרֵ֪עַ] אָבִ֡יךָ אַֽל־תַּעֲזֹ֗ב וּבֵ֥ית אָחִ֗יךָ

 אַל־תָּ֭בוֹא בְּי֣וֹם אֵידֶ֑ךָ ט֥וֹב שָׁכֵ֥ן קָ֝ר֗וֹב מֵאָ֥ח רָחֽוֹק׃

Proverbs 27:10 translates: "Do not desert your friend and your father’s friend; Do not enter your brother’s house in your time of misfortune; A close neighbor is better than a distant brother." A friend is someone whom you choose based on shared interests or experiences. A neighbor is someone who is close to you geographically and as a result may actually care for you. A good friend or neighbor is so important for an individual, that, at times, it is even more important than family members. Ideally, ones family members are close that they are also considered to be "friends." If that is not the case, however, then it is better to solicit help from a close friend during a time of misfortune rather than a "distant brother." This is because a friend is more likely to empathize with you and offer genuine support. This is opposed to approaching a distant family member who will be put into the awkward situation of not wanting to help you. Beth Torah Bulletin, June 27, 2020.

Smooth Paths

§ בְּכָל־דְּרָכֶ֥יךָ דָעֵ֑הוּ וְ֝ה֗וּא יְיַשֵּׁ֥ר אֹֽרְחֹתֶֽיךָ׃

Bar Kappara, the third century sage, asks "which is a brief passage upon which all fundamentals of the Torah are dependent?" His response is from Proverbs 3:6, "In all your ways you should know Him (God), and He will smooth your paths." Bar Kappara says that one must apply this principle of adhering to God in all their activities, and if one does so, then they will refrain from sin (TB Berakhot 63a). Ibn Ezra comments that one must put the effort to implement their knowledge of God into all their dealings; be it business affairs, scholarly pursuits, or personal interactions. If one makes this effort, then God will make their lives easier and remove the obstacles on their roads. One may view this verse as being a promise of making ones life easier as a reward for acknowledging Him. Another way to understand this is that having knowledge of God in all areas of life will cause one to have less doubt and less stress, and as a result, their paths, by default, will be smoother. Beth Torah Bulletin, June 20, 2020.

The Pause

§ מֵשִׁ֣יב דָּ֭בָר בְּטֶ֣רֶם יִשְׁמָ֑ע אִוֶּ֥לֶת הִיא־ל֝֗וֹ וּכְלִמָּֽה׃

At a press conference last week, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, was asked a question on a very sensitive topic. People started to feel uncomfortable when they saw that he paused for 21 seconds prior to answering the question. However, it seems like he used this long pause to contemplate an answer that was thoughtful and articulate and sensitive to all the parties involved. This is a good example of one who exhibits wisdom. Proverbs 18:13 says "To respond to something before hearing makes him look foolish and disgraceful." This verse, contrasting the scenario above, is critical of one who is so eager to answer that they don't even think before they speak. One who is quick to respond even prior to hearing the full question is one that is prone to making errors in speech and is prone to say something incorrect, insensitive, or in the words of the proverb, "foolish." One should always remember the power of words, and should pause before responding to a question. Beth Torah Bulletin, June 13, 2020.

Discipline

§ חוֹשֵׂ֣ךְ שִׁ֭בְטוֹ שׂוֹנֵ֣א בְנ֑וֹ וְ֝אֹהֲב֗וֹ שִֽׁחֲר֥וֹ מוּסָֽר׃

Proverbs 13:24 translates: “To spare your rod is to hate your son; and to love him is to discipline early.” When it comes to the upbringing of children, a parent might be inclined to try and “be nice” to the children and to let them do whatever they want in order to win their approval. This is a trap, and according to the Proverb, is the wrong approach. A parent has to realize that their role is not to be the “friend” of the child. Proverbs 13:24 says that a parent who doesn’t punish or rebuke a child when they do something wrong is a parent who, in effect, "hates their child." To the contrary, a parent who disciplines their child early and often may appear to hate the child, but in effect actually loves them. Although the terminology of “sparing your rod,” is a form of abuse that is no longer appropriate in our days, the overall message still applies. These days, disciplining children should only be done through reprimanding and punishing and never through acts of physical abuse. Beth Torah Bulletin, June 6, 2020.

Complete Weights

§ מֹאזְנֵ֣י מִ֭רְמָה תּוֹעֲבַ֣ת יְהוָ֑ה וְאֶ֖בֶן שְׁלֵמָ֣ה רְצוֹנֽוֹ׃

Proverbs 11:1 translates: "Deceptive scales are an abomination of God; but a complete weight pleases Him." This verse is about conducting monetary affairs with a fellow person in good faith, transparency, and honesty. In the past, trade was conducted by putting weights on a scale in order to measure the weight of the product that one intends to purchase. For those who were dishonest, false scales or incomplete weights could have been used in order to deceive the buyer and give them less than entitled to. In these days, however, when scales and weights are less often used, this verse serves as a general reminder of the importance of conducting business honestly. It is also a reminder that God monitors all of ones actions. For even if one manages to fool a fellow person by acting In trickery, God knows the truth and is repulsed by such behavior. God is only pleased with "complete weights" and business transactions that are conducted fairly. Beth Torah Bulletin, May 30, 2020.

Gaining Knowledge

§ קְֽנֹה־חָכְמָ֗ה מַה־טּ֥וֹב מֵחָר֑וּץ וּקְנ֥וֹת בִּ֝ינָ֗ה נִבְחָ֥ר מִכָּֽסֶף׃

Proverbs 16:16 translates: "Acquiring wisdom is better than gold, and acquiring discernment is preferred to silver." When I was in college and was confronted with how to spend my free time, my father would advise me to shadow my role models in their places of work (for no money). This is opposed to working in a place where I would earn some pocket money but gain no knowledge. The most important thing, he says, is to gain knowledge for the future. I am grateful that individuals like Dr Eddie Sutton and Dr Gary Franco would allow me to shadow them in their dental offices during those formative years. Relating that to this verse, the pursuit of wisdom through life experiences is more valuable than the pursuit of money. This is because the wisdom, as opposed to money, will always be with you, and will help you further yourself in the future. While working in a job that doesn't teach you anything may temporarily sustain you, it will not advance you in the long term. Beth Torah Bulletin, May 23, 2020.

Dinner Plans

§ ט֤וֹב אֲרֻחַ֣ת יָ֭רָק וְאַהֲבָה־שָׁ֑ם מִשּׁ֥וֹר אָ֝ב֗וּס וְשִׂנְאָה־בֽוֹ׃

Proverbs 15:17 translation: "Better a meal of vegetables where there is love, than a fattened ox where there is hate." Each week when I was in college, I had to find a place to eat for a Shabbat or holiday meal. During these years, I had the opportunity to interact with many different types of families. For the most part, each family was special in their own way and extremely hospitable. However, the Proverb above, provides a hypothetical scenario of two polarized types of dinner meals. One is a meal with peaceful and loving people, but consists of only of vegetables, and the other is a meal with belligerent and hateful people but consists of a fancy steak dinner. For this scenario, Proverbs suggests that one chooses wisely and spends time with loving people that are at peace with one another rather than spend time with belligerent people that are constantly fighting with one another. In summary, good company is more important than good food. Beth Torah Bulletin, May 16, 2020.

The Ant

§ לֵֽךְ־אֶל־נְמָלָ֥ה עָצֵ֑ל רְאֵ֖ה דְרָכֶ֣יהָ וַחֲכָֽם׃

Proverbs 6:6 translation: "Go to an ant, you lazy, see it's ways and wisen." The Malbim says that it is important to look at the traits of animals to see what can be learned from them. For if God never gave the Torah to us, our next option would be to look for examples of good traits from different animals. Regarding the ant, it is very small in size, yet very diligent in its task of collecting food. It often carries food that is much bigger and heavier than itself; a trait to emulate. In addition, it wisely prepares itself for the future by collecting food during the harvest season (summer), when food is plentiful, in order to store it for the winter season, when food is scarce. Verses 7-8 continue to say that although ants have no leaders, policemen, or rulers amongst themselves, they still continue to do their tasks of collecting food on their own and without coercion. They know their responsibilities and don't need to be reminded to take care of them. Beth Torah Bulletin, May 9, 2020.


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