Chapter 10

1Dying flies make putrid and foamy the oil of a perfumer; so does a little folly outweigh wisdom and honor.   אזְב֣וּבֵי מָ֔וֶת יַבְאִ֥ישׁ יַבִּ֖יעַ שֶׁ֣מֶן רוֹקֵ֑חַ יָקָ֛ר מֵֽחָכְמָ֥ה מִכָּב֖וֹד סִכְל֥וּת מְעָֽט:
Dying flies make putrid and foamy, etc.: e.g., in the winter season, when the flies have no strength, and they are near death: if it falls into the oil of a perfumer and becomes mingled with the perfumes, it causes it to become putrid and it assumes a foam, which is called zecume in Old French, foam, froth, bubbles, and a sort of bubbles (אֲבַעְבּוּעוֹת) appears in it, and this is the meaning of יַבִּיעַ. Hence we have an insignificant thing spoiling an important thing. So does a little folly outweigh wisdom and honor, for it outweighed them all. Let us suppose that this man was equal with half transgressions and half merits, and he came and committed one transgression, which weighed him down to the scale of demerit. It is found that this folly, which is a small thing, is heavy and weighs and is heavier than all the wisdom and the honor that were in him, for behold, it outweighed them all. יָקָר is an expression of weight. It is heavy and weighs more than the wisdom and the honor in him. The Midrash Aggadah (Ber. 61a) states: Scripture compares the evil inclination to dying flies.  
makes putrid and foamy: a good name, which is more pleasant than the oil of a perfumer.  
2The heart of the wise man is at his right, whereas the heart of the fool is at his left.   בלֵ֤ב חָכָם֙ לִֽימִינ֔וֹ וְלֵ֥ב כְּסִ֖יל לִשְׂמֹאלֽוֹ:
The heart of a wise man is at his right: His wisdom is ready to turn him to the way that is “righted” for his good.  
and the heart of a fool is at his left: to turn him in a crooked way from the right way, which is a glory and a comfort for him.  
3Also on the road, when a fool walks, his understanding is lacking, and he says to all that he is a fool.   גוְגַם־בַּדֶּ֛רֶךְ כְּשֶׁסָּכָ֥ל (כתיב כְּשֶׁהסָּכָ֥ל) הֹלֵ֖ךְ לִבּ֣וֹ חָסֵ֑ר וְאָמַ֥ר לַכֹּ֖ל סָכָ֥ל הֽוּא:
and he says to all that he is a fool: with his walk and with his speech, everyone recognizes that he is a fool.  
4If the spirit of the Ruler ascends upon you, do not leave your place, for a cure assuages great sins.   דאִם־ר֤וּחַ הַמּוֹשֵׁל֙ תַּֽעֲלֶ֣ה עָלֶ֔יךָ מְקֽוֹמְךָ֖ אַל־תַּנַּ֑ח כִּ֣י מַרְפֵּ֔א יַנִּ֖יחַ חֲטָאִ֥ים גְּדוֹלִֽים:
If the spirit of the Ruler: the Ruler of the World, ascends upon you to scrutinize you with the Divine Standard of Justice.  
do not leave your place: Do not leave your virtue to say to Him, “What will my righteousness avail me?”  
for a cure: The stringencies of the judgment with the afflictions that come upon you are a cure for your iniquities, and will assuage great sins for you.  
5 There is an evil that I saw under the sun, like an error that goes forth from before the ruler.   היֵ֣שׁ רָעָ֔ה רָאִ֖יתִי תַּ֣חַת הַשָּׁ֑מֶשׁ כִּשְׁגָגָ֕ה שֶׁיֹּצָ֖א מִלִּפְנֵ֥י הַשַּׁלִּֽיט:
like an error that goes forth from before the ruler: It is like a ruler who let an error out of his mouth unintentionally, and it cannot be retracted. So does the Holy One, blessed be He, speak, and it cannot be retracted.  
6Folly was set at great heights, and the rich sit in a low place.   ונִתַּ֣ן הַסֶּ֔כֶל בַּמְּרוֹמִ֖ים רַבִּ֑ים וַֽעֲשִׁירִ֖ים בַּשֵּׁ֥פֶל יֵשֵֽׁבוּ:
Folly was set at great heights: This is the evil that is like an error which goes forth from before the ruler: that folly and wickedness are set at the loftiest heights, for the Holy One, blessed be He, raised the fools and the wicked, for I see with the holy spirit, that they are destined to stretch out a hand upon His Temple and to make their signs for signs." (Psalms 74:4; see also Gittin 56b.)  
and the rich sit in a low place: Israel, for despite all the greatness and honor that they have now in my days, they are destined to sit in a low place, as it is said (Lam. 2:10): “sit on the ground in silence.”  
7I saw slaves on horses and princes walking like slaves on the ground.   זרָאִ֥יתִי עֲבָדִ֖ים עַל־סוּסִ֑ים וְשָׂרִ֛ים הֹֽלְכִ֥ים כַּֽעֲבָדִ֖ים עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ:
I saw slaves on horses: These are the Chaldeans, about whom it is said (Isa. 23:13): “this people has never been.” ; [They] will be elevated to be on horses, leading the captives of Israel, bound with neck irons.  
and princes walking like slaves on the ground: before the chariots of the Chaldeans.  
8One who digs a pit shall fall therein, and one who breaks a fence-a snake shall bite him.   חחֹפֵ֥ר גּוּמָּ֖ץ בּ֣וֹ יִפּ֑וֹל וּפֹרֵ֥ץ גָּדֵ֖ר יִשְּׁכֶ֥נּוּ נָחָֽשׁ:
fall therein: Sometimes he falls into it, i.e., sometimes you have someone plotting evil and it ultimately returns upon him in the end, for Nebuchadnezzar’s seed was destroyed through the Temple vessels, as it is said (Dan. 5:23): “but over the Lord of Heaven you exalted yourself,” [and the vessels of His House they brought before you, and you, your dignitaries, your queen, and your concubines drank wine in them, etc.].  
and one who breaks a fence: the fence of the Sages, to transgress their words.  
a snake shall bite him: death by the hands of Heaven, and since he spoke with an expression of breaking a fence, he mentions his recompense with an expression of the biting of a snake, which occupies the holes of the broken walls of houses.  
9One who quarries stones shall be wearied by them; one who hews wood shall be warmed by it.   טמַסִּ֣יעַ אֲבָנִ֔ים יֵֽעָצֵ֖ב בָּהֶ֑ם בּוֹקֵ֥עַ עֵצִ֖ים יִסָּ֥כֶן בָּֽם:
One who quarries stones shall be wearied by them: One who takes stones from their quarry in the mountains is fatigued by them. יִעָצֵב is an expression of weariness, like (Gen. 3:17): “with toil (בְּעִצָבוֹן) shall you eat it,” i.e., every man, according to his work is his weariness. So will he who commits evil reap according to what he sows.  
shall be warmed by it: יִסָכֶן בָּם, shall be warmed by it, like (I Kings 1:2): “and she shall be to him a warmer (סֹכֶנֶת).” So will one who engages in the Torah and in the precepts ultimately benefit from them.  
10If the iron is dull, and he did not sharpen the edge, it [still] strengthens the armies, but wisdom has a greater advantage.   יאִם־קֵהָ֣ה הַבַּרְזֶ֗ל וְהוּא֙ לֹֽא־פָנִ֣ים קִלְקַ֔ל וַֽחֲיָלִ֖ים יְגַבֵּ֑ר וְיִתְר֥וֹן הַכְשֵׁ֖יר חָכְמָֽה:
If the iron is dull: sharp swords, whose edges have become dull.  
and he did not sharpen the edge: And they are not sharpened and burnished (Ezek. 21:15): “in order that they may glitter” ; nevertheless, it still strengthens the armies. It strengthens the mighty men of the armies to be victorious in battle.  
but wisdom has a greater advantage: But wisdom has another advantage over iron, namely, that if a Torah scholar blackens his face with hunger, and you see him as a poor man among the rich, many armies are strengthened by him. Do not wonder about the “vav” of וַחֲיָלִים, for many “vavin” appear like that in Hebrew, like (Ps. 50:18): “If you saw a thief, you agreed (וַתִּרֶץ) with him” ; (Exod. 15:2): “The strength and the cutting of the Lord was (וַיְהִי) to me a salvation,” and many are explained in this manner.  
11If the snake bites, it is because it was not charmed, and there is no advantage to one who has a tongue.   יאאִם־יִשֹּׁ֥ךְ הַנָּחָ֖שׁ בְּלוֹא־לָ֑חַשׁ וְאֵ֣ין יִתְר֔וֹן לְבַ֖עַל הַלָּשֽׁוֹן:
If the snake bites: a man.  
it is because it was not charmed: lit. without charming; because the charmer did not charm him so that he should not bite.  
and there is no advantage: to the wicked charmer who was accustomed to charm it, if he does not charm it. So, if the people of your city stumble over prohibitions because the wise man does not preach to them or teach them the statutes of the Torah, he has no advantage with his silence, and he will not profit.  
12The words of a wise man's mouth [find] favor, but a fool's lips will destroy him.   יבדִּבְרֵ֥י פִֽי־חָכָ֖ם חֵ֑ן וְשִׂפְת֥וֹת כְּסִ֖יל תְּבַלְּעֶֽנּוּ:
The words of a wise man’s mouth find favor: in the eyes of their listeners, and they listen to him, and it is good for him that he assumes greatness over them.  
but a fool’s lips will destroy him: This refers to someone who misleads his fellow man from the good way to the bad way; e.g., Balaam, who broke the restrictions that the nations had imposed upon themselves, that they restricted themselves from immorality from the time of the Generation of the Flood and onwards, and he advised them to offer their daughters for prostitution.  
13The beginning of the words of his mouth is folly, and the end of his speech is grievous madness.   יגתְּחִלַּ֥ת דִּבְרֵי־פִ֖יהוּ סִכְל֑וּת וְאַֽחֲרִ֣ית פִּ֔יהוּ הֽוֹלֵל֖וּת רָעָֽה:
The beginning of the words of his mouth is folly: When the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, (Num. 22:9): “Who are these men with you?” he should have replied, “O Lord, You know,” but he said, “Balak ben Zippor the king of Moab sent them to me,” meaning that if I am despised in Your eyes, I am esteemed in the eyes of the earthly kings.  
and the end of his speech is… madness: Heb. הוֹלֵלוּת, madness and confusion, “Come I will counsel you with foolish lewdness.”  
14And the fool increases words; a man does not know what will be, and what will be behind him, who will tell him?   ידוְהַסָּכָ֖ל יַרְבֶּ֣ה דְבָרִ֑ים לֹֽא־יֵדַ֤ע הָֽאָדָם֙ מַה־שֶּׁיִּֽהְיֶ֔ה וַֽאֲשֶׁ֤ר יִֽהְיֶה֙ מֵֽאַֽחֲרָ֔יו מִ֖י יַגִּ֥יד לֽוֹ:
And the fool increases words: for he was boasting that he (ibid. 24:16): “knows the thoughts of the Most High.”  
a man does not know what will be: to him after a while, for he went to take his pay in Midian, and he did not know that he would fall by the sword. According to its simple meaning:  
the fool increases words: He declares and says, “Tomorrow I will do this to so-and- so,” but he does not know what will be tomorrow.  
and what will be behind him, who will tell him: i.e., not only does he not know what will be after a time, but even what is present behind him, which is not in front of his eyes, but behind his back, from afar, he needs someone to tell him [what is happening].  
15The toil of the fools wearies him, for he does not know to go to the city.   טועֲמַ֥ל הַכְּסִילִ֖ים תְּיַגְּעֶ֑נּוּ אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־יָדַ֖ע לָלֶ֥כֶת אֶל־עִֽיר:
The toil of the fools wearies him: Their folly causes them toil, which wearies them, for they did not learn the ways of the approaches to the city, and he wearies himself by entering by way of pits and marshes, and he is wearied by his feet sinking into the mire; i.e., the laziness of those who abandon the Torah causes them wearying toil in Gehinnom.  
for he does not know to go to the city: to the path of truth, to part from transgression, because he did not learn Torah, as it is said (Ps. 119:105): “Your words are a lamp for my feet.”  
16Woe to you, O land whose king is a lad, and your princes eat in the morning.   טזאִֽי־לָ֣ךְ אֶ֔רֶץ שֶׁמַּלְכֵּ֖ךְ נָ֑עַר וְשָׂרַ֖יִךְ בַּבֹּ֥קֶר יֹאכֵֽלוּ:
Woe to you, O land whose king: when your king and your judges behave childishly.  
17Fortunate are you, O land, whose king is the son of nobles, and your princes eat at the proper time, in might and not in drinking.   יזאַשְׁרֵ֣יךְ אֶ֔רֶץ שֶׁמַּלְכֵּ֖ךְ בֶּן־חוֹרִ֑ים וְשָׂרַ֨יִךְ֙ בָּעֵ֣ת יֹאכֵ֔לוּ בִּגְבוּרָ֖ה וְלֹ֥א בַשְּׁתִֽי:
in might and not in drinking: They engage in the might of wisdom and understanding and not in drinking wine.  
18Through laziness the rafter sinks, and with idleness of the hands the house leaks.   יחבַּֽעֲצַלְתַּ֖יִם יִמַּ֣ךְ הַמְּקָרֶ֑ה וּבְשִׁפְל֥וּת יָדַ֖יִם יִדְלֹ֥ף הַבָּֽיִת:
Through laziness the rafter sinks: when a person is lazy and does not repair a small breach in the ceiling of the house.  
the rafter sinks: The structure that covers the house and protects it will sink.  
leaks: The dripping rain drips, i.e., when the Israelites are lazy with the Torah, they melt, (i.e., they are defeated) and the House of the pride of their strength (viz. the Temple) becomes destroyed and impoverished.  
19On joyous occasions, a feast is made, and wine gladdens the living, and money answers everything.   יטלִשְׂחוֹק֙ עֹשִׂ֣ים לֶ֔חֶם וְיַ֖יִן יְשַׂמַּ֣ח חַיִּ֑ים וְהַכֶּ֖סֶף יַֽעֲנֶ֥ה אֶת־הַכֹּֽל:
On joyous occasions, a feast is made: For the joy of the musical entertainment at a wedding, we make a grand feast, and an undefined grand feast is called לֶחֶם, as it is stated (Dan. 5:1): “King Belshazzar made a great feast (לְחֶם).”  
and wine: they give to drink at the feast, which gladdens the living.  
and money answers everything: If there is no money, there is no feast; therefore, a person should not neglect work in order that he should have what to spend.  
20Even in your thought, you shall not curse a king, nor in your bedrooms shall you curse a wealthy man, for the bird of the heaven shall carry the voice, and the winged creature will tell the matter.   כגַּ֣ם בְּמַדָּֽעֲךָ֗ מֶ֚לֶךְ אַל־תְּקַלֵּ֔ל וּבְחַדְרֵי֙ מִשְׁכָּ֣בְךָ֔ אַל־תְּקַלֵּ֖ל עָשִׁ֑יר כִּ֣י ע֤וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֨יִם֙ יוֹלִ֣יךְ אֶת־הַקּ֔וֹל וּבַ֥עַל כְּנָפַ֖יִם (כתיב הכְּנָפַ֖יִם) יַגֵּ֥יד דָּבָֽר:
Even in your thought… a king: even in your thoughts, without speech. גַּם means “even.” You shall not curse a king; do not provoke the King of the World. Another interpretation is that this is a king, according to its apparent meaning, a mortal king.  
the bird of the heaven: the soul, which is placed within you, which will ultimately fly up to the heaven.  
and the winged creature: the angel who escorts you, as it is stated: (Ps. 91:11): “For He will command His angels on your behalf,” and according to its apparent meaning, the passersby. You should worry about every person, perhaps there are people listening, and they will tell the matter to others.