The presence of a tzadik in a community creates a general feeling of goodwill which promotes the well-being of the entire comunity, for people seek to emulate the role model that the tzadik presents. They also know that Hashem showers blessings on the entire vicinity when there is a tzadik present. Accordingly, an enlightened community will join with Hashem in blessing the tzadik that they are privileged to have in their midst.
However, the community may also harbor wicked people (resha’im), whose instinctive motivation is to take advantage of their fellow man and cause him harm. This gives them a temporary feeling of success, but ultimately leads to resentment and friction. The harm they do undermines and blocks any potential for blessing reaching them. See also Mishlei 11-10.
בְּרָכוֹת לְרֹאשׁ צַדִּיק וּפִי רְשָׁעִים יְכַסֶּה חָמָס
(6) Blessings will cover the head of the tzadik,
but the harm of the resha’im will cover their mouth to block their evil speech.
In comparing the effect of a tzadik upon a community with that of resha’im, Mishlei distinguishes between the tzadik’s head, which is the seat of his wisdom and the mouth of the rasha, which is his instrument of harm through deception, falsehood, and gossip.
The head of the tzadik initiates goodwill and is also the instrument for receiving goodwill in the form of blessings. The instinctive reaction of a tzadik is to feel love towards everyone with whom he interacts. He expresses his love through kind words and blessings.
The mouth of the wicked person causes harm to others and also represents his appetite, which he seeks to satisfy in dishonest ways.
The blessings that the tzadik issues through his wisdom return to him (his head) in the form of blessings. The harm that the resha’im do through the workings of their mouth return to them by “covering” that mouth so that their appetite will remain unsatisfied.
Blessings from Heaven and from the people will descend — בְּרָכוֹת
upon the loving head of the tzadik —– לְרֹאשׁ צַדִּיק
for his mouth issues a blessing to all,
but the mouth of the resha’im —– וּפִי רְשָׁעִים
which tries to issue evil speech
will be covered by the harm — יְכַסֶּה חָמָס
done by that evil speech.
(1) People bless the tzadik because he brings fulfillment to their lives. Also, it is as though they are living under his protection because the blessings of Hashem come to them in his zechus (merit). (המאירי, אבן יחייא)
(2) The head is described as the organ where blessings are received because the source of all blessings is from Hashem, on high. The head is the highest and most prominent part of the body so that it is the first organ to be encountered by the descending blessings. (רבינו יונה)
(3) The Gemara (Sotah 38b) states that a tzadik is continually blessing people, as it says (Mishlei 22:9), “A person of generous character will bless others”
(טוֹב עַיִן הוּא יְבֹרָךְ). (הגר”א)
(4) Because the tzadik does good to others it is as though the whole community lays their hands upon his head and blesses him. (מלבי”ם)
(5) The resha’im harm others through their mouth which curses people and shames them. The harm that they intended to do to others comes back to affect them. (הגר”א)
(6) The resha’im try to cover up their wicked behavior, symbolized by covering their mouth, the source of the evil that they do. (מלבי”ם)
(7) Through the actions of the tzadik the whole community gains benefit and honor. The actions of the rasha, however, undermine the well-being of the entire community. Therefore, a community is glad not only about the happiness of the righteous but also about the downfall of the resha’im. (רשר”ה)
(8) The tzadik is described as an individual, using the singular form, because a true tzadik is a rarity. In contrast, the resha’im are described in the plural form, because they tend to proliferate. Because of the power of the yetzer hara (evil inclination) it takes more effort for a person to be righteous than to be wicked. But this is every man’s challenge and his mission. (דעת סופרים)
NOTE: For a PDF copy of this segment, please click on the blue title below.
This will enable you to print out the entire text of the article.