Malbim / Proverbs (Mishlei) / Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch

Mishlei (Proverbs) 10:15 – “What it means to be rich”

As soon as we hear the word “rich”, we automatically think of money. Lots of cash, having a nice house, a fancy car and anything we want. No doubt, RICH stands for MONEY.
In the Proverbs (Mishlei) of King Salomon (Shlomo HaMelech) 10:15 we read the following:

A rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the ruin of the impoverished is their poverty.

Let us be honest. My first thought was that this seems so unfair. It looks as if the rich are so great and poor people, well, are ruined.
Comes along the famous Malbim and provides a great commentary:
Wealth acts as an insulation against disaster. It protects a person against various difficulties in life. If one loses his wealth, metaphorically his fortress has been conquered by the enemy, leaving him defenseless against disaster. Symbolically, the wealth mentioned here is the inner riches of wisdom, which protect a man against his spiritual enemies. His desires and instinctive drives.


Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes:
Our society is divided into two social classes: The wealthy and the poor. However, both group follow the same misconception: They overestimate the importance of material possessions but, at the same time, forget about one’s real value in life.
The rich man considers himself as powerful and a poor person agrees because the poor see themselves as insignificant who have to follow the orders of the rich.
A man often forgets that far more valuable than riches, gold and silver, are the good name and kind of nature of a person, attainable only by leading a good life.
Power and possessions are not a tower of strength because every rich man can easily lose everything within a second. The poor man, on the other hand, loses faith in his dignity as a human being. It doesn’t appear to the rich man that a poor person surpasses him by far. Morally and spiritually. The self – humiliation of the poor increases the haughtiness of the rich, and the pridefulness  of the rich lowers the self – respect of the poor.
I think that it is very important to look at our inner values and not only at a person’s bank account or possessions. This behaviour could make the rich a little more humbled and give the poor more self – respect and dignity.

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