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Mishlei 21-17


Key Concepts

The concept of pleasure can apply to any event or experience which creates a good feeling or mood.  It is generally synonymous with the Hebrew word simchah (שִׂמְחָה). The source of the experience that creates simchah could be physical, emotional, or spiritual. The characteristic of simchah is that it is temporary, but the person experiencing it feels a desire to extend it and repeat it.

A simchah is not inherently good or bad. That depends on the nature of that particular simchah. Our proverb deals with the kind of simchah that is material in nature, which indicates that the hunger for it can cause problems for a person. In contrast, the simchah discussed in segment 21-15 (pleasure at the implementation of justice) is a characteristic of a tzadik.

Exploring Mishlei

יז = אִישׁ מַחְסוֹר אֹהֵב שִׂמְחָה אֹהֵב יַיִן וָשֶׁמֶן לֹא יַעֲשִׁיר

(17) A man who feels the lack of simchah is a lover of simchah;
one who loves wine and oil will not grow wealthy

Because simchah is temporary by nature, a person who becomes addicted to the simchah experience will have a strong desire to extend it and repeat it. Such a person is referred to as an אִישׁ מַחְסוֹר (man who feels a lack). Such a man feels a strong urge to have the next simchah experience, and is referred to as an אֹהֵב שִׂמְחָה  (lover of simchah). If he happens to have a love for wine and oil, he will find that his love for simchah is expensive and will prevent from accumulating wealth.

Learning Mishlei

(17) A man who lacks pleasure אִישׁ מַחְסוֹר
loves pleasure. אֹהֵב שִׂמְחָה

If he loves wine and oil — אֹהֵב יַיִן וָשֶׁמֶן
he will not get rich
לֹא יַעֲשִׁיר

Additional Insights

[1] A person who gets in the habit of eating and drinking to excess in terms of quality or quantity will always be an אִישׁ מַחְסוֹר.

[2] A person who is accustomed to a variety of external sources of pleasure will be constantly feeling a craving for a fresh pleasure. (מלבי”ם)

[3] Besides the cost factor and health issues, a person should avoid indulgence in material pleasures because (1) they promote a deterioration of the spiritual side of life, (2) an attachment to material possessions may result in unhappiness when they are lost, (3) an attachment to foolish things is damaging to one’s spiritual health, and (4) the pursuit of pleasures in an easy life may result in poverty. (רבינו יונה)

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