A Unique Online Torah Learning Resource

Mishlei 12-08 (Intellect and Heart)

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 1]
Key Concepts of Mishlei 12-08 (Intellect and Heart)
Mishlei has been emphasizing that the duty of every person is to acquire wisdom (chochmah). He needs to use that wisdom to direct his actions in a way that pleases his Creator.
There are two related instruments of the mind that enable a person to acquire wisdom. These are the power of the intellect (sechel) and the power of insight (binah). The intellect enables the person to judge the truth of an idea or fact, distinguishing it from falsehood. Insight enables him to visualize an idea in his mind and relate one idea to another. Both intellect and insight are essential, but ultimately intellect takes precedence because it is the use of intellect that directly enables a person to adhere to the truth of the Torah.
The intellect is able to perform its function of distinguishing truth from falsehood only if it has not been contaminated by the effects of the evil inclination (yetzer hara). The yetzer hara works upon the heart, which is the moral, ethical and emotional inner being of the person, his expression of will. If the person has trained his heart to resist the yetzer hara, his intellect will remain pure, but if his heart becomes corrupted by the yetzer hara, the intellect will become contaminated as well, which will result in the person adopting false ideas and defending those false beliefs with the vigor that the heart generates. Such a person is worthy of disdain, no matter how powerful his intellect may happen to be.
A person’s intellectual powers are granted at birth but can be developed and enhanced by good mental habits just as his body can be strengthened through healthy eating and exercise.
Exploring Mishlei
(ח) לְפִי־שִׂכְלוֹ יְהֻלַּל־אִישׁ וְנַעֲוֵה־לֵב יִהְיֶה לָבוּז:
(8) A man may be praised according to the power of his intellect but the man of corrupted heart is to be scorned.
This proverb contrasts the praise that may be earned by having a pure intellect with the scorn that a person deserves if his heart has become corrupted by the yetzer hara, resulting in the contamination of his intellect.
Learning Mishlei
(ח) לְפִי שִׂכְלוֹ יְהֻלַּל אִישׁ 
וְנַעֲוֵה לֵב יִהְיֶה לָבוּז:
A man may be praised to a greater or lesser extent according to the depth of his intellect  לְפִי־שִׂכְלוֹ יְהֻלַּל־אִישׁ  as long as it is pure and has not been tainted by his yetzer hara, but the man of corrupted heart is to be scorned  וְנַעֲוֵה־לֵב יִהְיֶה לָבוּז  for his lack of integrity will corrupt his intellect and he will eventually be found out.
Additional Insights
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) A person whose heart has been turned away from the Torah deserves scorn despite the power of his intellect.
(2) The intellect refers to the ability of the mind that goes beyond insight, such as to grasp the truth.
(3) Although the intellect is normally treated as a good thing in holy writings, it can be misled by the heart, which is the ultimate ruling force in the soul of a person.)
(4) There is differrence between a perverse heart (ikesh lev) as in Segment 11-12 and a corrupted heart (na’aveh lev) as in this proverb. Both have been led astray by the yetzer hara, but the perverse heart is affected by misdirected sensuality and the corrupted heart is affected by erroneous logic.
(5) A person with a corrupted will be drawn to deny the truth. He will stubbornly insist on the opposite of truth and therefore should be disdained.
(6) A person should favor the intellect over the physical body, because it is the intellect that deserves praise.
(7) The person of corrupted heart will eventually be found out evern though he conceals his thinking.
(8) The greater the intellect of a corrupt man the more he should be put to shame for not using his intellect for constructive purposes.
The primary sources used for the additional insights illuminating this segment are listed below.
(1) - רש"י, מצודות
(2) - מלבי"ם
(3) - מלבי"ם
(4) - מלבי"ם
(5) - רבינו יונה, רלב"ג
(6) - אבן יחייא
(7) - הגר"א
(8) - אלשיך