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Mishlei 11-24


[Pesukim 11-24 thru 11-27]

Key Concepts

A person who is concerned about the welfare of others focuses his attention upon those around him and is sensitive to their needs and wishes. His mind is occupied by thinking what can be done to help them. Whenever he is able to do so, he takes action to bring about positive change for other people and society.

In contrast, the selfish person focuses his attention inward. When he thinks of others it is with the idea of gaining advantage over them and using them and their assets as a resource to improve his own well-being.

Mishlei teaches that the attitudes of generosity and selfishness bring about counter-intuitive results. The person who is sincerely concerned about the welfare of others will find that he is the one who profits. He will find happiness and serenity. Everything that is his will be blessed. The selfish person who is concerned mostly about his own well-being will be disappointed by the ill-will he incurs and ultimately Hashem will not reward his efforts with good fortune.

A primary application of these concepts is in regard to the giving of charity (tzedakah) to the needy. The generous person maintains an open hand that matches his open heart. The selfish person thinks of every charitable donation as a reduction in his assets and therefore gives as little as he thinks he can get away with.

Another important application of the concepts of generosity and selfishness is in regard to the sharing of Torah knowledge. A talmid chacham (Torah scholar) with a selfish attitude will focus all his attention upon his personal acquisition of Torah knowledge.  He prides himself in knowing more than others. The generous person will be equally concerned with how well others are learning. He will devote time, effort, and money to help them expand their knowledge. Mishlei advises him that as a result his own progress in Torah will be rewarded.

Exploring Mishlei

This segment consists four sequential verses that teach an attitude of generosity towards other people.

11:24. Scattering

 כד = יֵשׁ מְפַזֵּר וְנוֹסָף עוֹד וְחוֹשֵׂךְ מִיֹּשֶׁר אַךְ־לְמַחְסוֹר

(24) A person may scatter his money and yet gain more than he had before.
Another may skimp from
giving even what is fair, but ends up with a loss.

The thought of scattering something sounds like losing control. However, when seeds are scattered on the ground the result is the sprouting and growth of life-giving plants. This demonstrates that by giving up control one can gain much more than one ever had. The same is true of wealth. When a person distributes wealth to the needy, he and his wealth are blessed with increase and growth. On the contrary, the one who skimps on giving tzedakah will suffer misfortune and loss.

A person may give his money away freely יֵשׁ מְפַזֵּר
yet gain more וְנוֹסָף עוֹד
than he had before.
Another skimps וְחוֹשֵׂךְ
from giving even from what is fair מִיֹּשֶׁר
ends up with a loss אַךְ־לְמַחְסוֹר.

11:25. Blessing

 כה = נֶפֶשׁ־בְּרָכָה תְדֻשָּׁן וּמַרְוֶה גַּם־הוּא יוֹרֶא

(25) The generous soul will flourish,
and one who refreshes
others will himself be refreshed.

Having an attitude of goodwill towards other people means calling down
Hashem’s blessing upon them. The generous soul is the soul of blessing. The person with such an attitude will himself be blessed. Such a person sees other
people’s needs and offers them refreshment. He will be refreshed in turn.

The generous soul נֶפֶשׁ־בְּרָכָה
will flourish.
And one who refreshes others — וּמַרְוֶה
will himself be refreshed
גַּם־הוּא יוֹרֶא.

11:26. Control

 כו = מֹנֵעַ בָּר יִקְּבֻהוּ לְאוֹם וּבְרָכָה לְרֹאשׁ מַשְׁבִּיר

(26) One who withholds grain from the market to drive up prices
will be cursed by people, but blessing will be on the head of the provider.

The tight-fisted person feels the need to control events and other people. He thinks this is the only way to gain advantage. But this attitude will surely bring him disappointment because the people he has harmed will curse him. In contrast, having an open and generous hand will call down a blessing upon his head.

One who withholds produce  מֹנֵעַ בָּר
from the market to drive up prices
will be cursed by people יִקְּבֻהוּ לְאוֹם,
Hashem’s blessing וּבְרָכָה
will be on the head of the provider לְרֹאשׁ מַשְׁבִּיר.

11:27. Envy

 כז = שֹׁחֵר טוֹב יְבַקֵּשׁ רָצוֹן וְדֹרֵשׁ רָעָה תְבוֹאֶנּוּ

(27)  One who diligently seeks good for others procures Hashem’s favor,
but he who looks for evil
for others, it will easily come upon him .

The envious person is unhappy when other people achieve success or good fortune. Therefore, he consciously or unconsciously wishes them ill. He will find that he has become a victim of his own bad attitude. The person of good will, on the other hand, seeks good for others and does what he can to help them. He will be rewarded with Hashem’s favor.

One who diligently seeks good for others — שֹׁחֵר טוֹב
procures Hashem’s favor יְבַקֵּשׁ רָצוֹן,
but he who looks for evil
for others, — וְדֹרֵשׁ רָעָה
it will easily come upon him תְבוֹאֶנּוּ.

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