Law and Prosperity
To earn an honest living, a person does not have to be rich. But it is important that he be law-abiding and live in a law-abiding society. The blessing of Hashem can bring prosperity even to a poor man’s small landholding. However, Hashem expects people to observe the rule of law.
Hashem rejects disorder and demands that people observe the rule of law in every aspect of life, whether it be the laws of the Torah or the laws of nature, because they are all laws of the universe that Hashem created.
Hashem expects a person to follow the natural laws of his profession. If he is a farmer, he must be familar with the natural requirements of agriculture. Thus, he must plow and sow at the right time of year depending on the crops he is growing and the climate in which he lives.
כג = רָב אֹכֶל נִיר רָאשִׁים וְיֵשׁ נִסְפֶּה בְּלֹא מִשְׁפָּט
(23) Even the furrows of the poor yield plenty of food,
but there is ruination in the absence of of law.
This proverb looks at prosperity in an agricultural economy. It contrasts the success that even the poor farmer can achieve in a just society with the ruination that people should expect if they fail to observe the rule of law, neglecting the right way of agriculture and the right way of life.
(23) Plenty of food — רָב אֹכֶל
is found even in the furrows of the poor — נִיר רָאשִׁים
but there is ruination— וְיֵשׁ נִסְפֶּה.
without a system of law — בְּלֹא מִשְׁפָּט
(1) Even if a poor farmer has the potential to see bountiful harvests, he cannot expect to do so unless he knows the rules of agriculture and practices them energetically. (אבן עזרא, המאירי, רשר”ה)
(2) Even a rich farmer can anticipate crop failure if he neglects to give the halachically required maasros (tithes), especially the required donations to the poor. (רש”י)
(3) Rich people of the world should realize that they are dependent on lower-paid people to do the menial labor that is essential to maintain their standard of living. Failure to ensure that poor people have enough to live will result in ruination for the entire society. (מצודות, הגר”א, שבט מיהודה)
(4) The crops mentioned in the proverb may also be an allegorical reference to Torah learning. The talmidim (students) are considered poor because of their limited Torah knowledge. Yet they produce bountiful harvests because their teachers learn from them through the give and take of Torah discussions. (רש”י)
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