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Classification Based on Financial Circumstances: Poor or Rich

Classification Based on Financial Circumstances: Poor or Rich


This classification of [people according to] wealth and poverty is based on natural differences, since habit [due to wealth or poverty] profoundly affects the ingrained character of people of both classes, as the saying: "Habit becomes nature. Wealth and poverty are, by nature, essentially antithetical.

A wealthy individual is by nature firm:

1) in his self-confidence,

2) in his self-esteem, and

3) in his expansiveness

4) He is haughty and arrogant,

5) ridicules the poor, and exalts in their humiliation.

A poor person [in contrast] is 1) weak in his self-confidence,

2) contrite,

3) broken,

4) disheartened and

5) self-deprecating.

Among these ten characteristics of wealth and poverty, are the finest of virtues, and [conversely,] the worst of faults.

The inferior [traits] among these, whether characteristic of wealth or of poverty, are deplorable; and the fine ones among these are not always absolutely good. For example, the attribute of self-confidence is a remarkable virtue. Inasmuch as man is human, it is an indispensable trait. Nevertheless, this attribute is not always laudable.

If self-confidence is employed in worthy pursuits, in the study of Torah and the observance of the commandments, or in the process of self-refinement, then it is a very positive trait and will bring much benefit. It confers power and strength to an individual, helping him: to study intensively; to ascend from one level to the next in intellectual pursuits; to subdue, to break and to uproot one's bad characteristics; and to develop sterling qualities.

A person with self-confidence will not find it difficult to grasp profound concepts or to develop fine characteristics.

The above applies, however, only when this self-confidence is directed towards good and beneficial ends. But if it is used for lowly purposes, as is the nature of the vacuous among the affluent, whose wealth blinds them, then regarding such people the verse says, "Wealth is kept for its owner to his detriment," for such self-confidence is a breeding ground for human ails.

Similarly, a broken-hearted and self-effacing nature is counted among those noble traits inestimable in value. When used for a good and beneficial purpose, it places a person on the highest pedestal of human virtues. But when springing from poverty and need, it dims the light of one's intelligence and feelings, for then it causes mental sluggishness and emotional lethargy.

Education and guidance must heal ethical sickness and fortify moral well-being. The method of education and guidance appropriate for the nature of the rich, therefore, is different from the method of education and guidance suited to the nature of the poor. And although both require that education and guidance be well-ordered, the methods themselves, [in the two situations of wealth and poverty,] are different.

Self-confidence is a marvelous quality when used in good and worthwhile endeavors, and is part of a person's natural characteristics insofar as he is human. Yet, it is essentially a negative trait, as the verse says, "Do not rely upon your under standing," or, in the words of the familiar adage, "He who places his trust in himself is likely to stumble."

On the other hand, contriteness and humility, though exalted traits when used in the proper way - as it says, "A contrite and broken heart, G‑d, You do not disdain," and as is written, "For G‑d is exalted, He notes the lowly" - are, in and of themselves, negative characteristics.

This is so since these traits [of contriteness and humility] are not part of the distinctive qualities of man who is expansive and domineering by nature.

Therefore, the task of educating and counselling differs for the wealthy and for the poor according to their respective situations.

Synopsis Ten general characteristics: five associated with wealth and five associated with poverty.

NOTE: Footnotes were omitted from the web version, please refer to print version for extensive footnotes.

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