NOTE: For a PDF copy of this segment, please click here. This will enable you to print out the entire text of the article. [Rev 0]
Key Concepts of Mishlei 12-12 (Greed)
The character of an individual determines his approach to earning his livelihood. The wicked person (rasha) is greedy by nature and so he focuses his attention on attaining the object of his desire in the quickest way possible, without regard to the cost. Since his mind is clouded by visions of wealth and easy money, he yearns to participate in the schemes of evildoers so that he can share in their ill-gotten gains.
On the other hand the rightous person (tzadik) is not focused on money. He does not sacrifice his principles in the pursuit of material gains but earns his livelihood in an honorable, productive way that does not depend on the harm being done to others.
(יב) חָמַד רָשָׁע מְצוֹד רָעִים וְשֹׁרֶשׁ צַדִּיקִים יִתֵּן:
(12) The rasha craves the spoils of evildoers, but the root of the tzadikim will provide [their livelood].
The proverb expresses the greed of the rasha in terms of his craving. He sees the ill-gotten gains of evildoers and thinks only in terms of gaining access to their treasures. He is contrasted with the tzadikim who are concerned with establishing a meaningful relationship to the world around them. They are confident that if they put down roots and learn an honest way of making a living, they will be able to support their families.
The analogy of a tzadik to a tree with deep roots recalls Mizmor 001 of Tehillim: He is like a tree that has been planted beside streams of water, which yields its fruit in due season (1:3).
(יב) חָמַד רָשָׁע מְצוֹד רָעִים
וְשֹׁרֶשׁ צַדִּיקִים יִתֵּן:
The rasha craves to share in the spoils of evildoers — חָמַד רָשָׁע מְצוֹד רָעִים – because he thinks that is the fastest way to riches, but the firmly planted root of the tzadikim will provide — וְשֹׁרֶשׁ צַדִּיקִים יִתֵּן – their livelihood in an honest way through productive labor.
A series of insights illuminating this proverb are presented below. The numbers identifying the insights refer to the listing of sources at the end of the segment.
(1) The tzadikim are compared to trees that put down deep roots in the environment. As the trees yield fruit, so do the tzadikim produce what they need to sustain life.
(2) The tzadikim are like trees that are able to withstand stormy winds because of their deep roots. Therefore the fruit that they provide can be depended upon. In contrast the get-rich-schemes of the rasha are inherently uncertain, and likely to fail.
(3) The fruit produced by the tzadikim takes time to sprout and mature but the passage of time enhances its quality. The schemes of the rasha are designed to yield instant results, but they don’t offer the assurance of permanence.
(4) The rasha is drawn to the company of evildoers because they seem to offer the fastest and easiest road to riches. But the tzadikim are dependent only on Hashem’s help. They rely on their own efforts and concentrate on productive labor.
The primary sources used for the additional insights illuminating this segment are listed below.
(1) – רש”י
(2) – חנוך לנער
(3) – ר’ חיים עוזר הלוי ליוואוויץ
(4) – רבינו יונה, מצודות