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Key Concepts of Mishlei 10-06 (Blessings for Life)
The instinctive reaction of a righteous man (tzadik) is to feel love towards everyone with whom he interacts. He expresses his love through kind words and blessings. Thus, 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.
(ו) בְּרָכוֹת לְרֹאשׁ צַדִּיק וּפִי רְשָׁעִים יְכַסֶּה חָמָס:
(6) Blessings [will cover] the head of the tzaddik, but the harm of the resha’im will cover [their] mouth.
In comparing the effect of a tzadik upon a community with that of resha’im, Mishlei distinguishes between the tzaddik’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 (lashan hara). The head of the tzadik initiates goodwill and is also the instrument for receiving goodwill in the form of 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 tzaddik 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.
(ו) בְּרָכוֹת לְרֹאשׁ צַדִּיק
וּפִי רְשָׁעִים יְכַסֶּה חָמָס:
Blessings from Heaven and from the people will descend upon and cover the loving head of the tzaddik — בְּרָכוֹת לְרֹאשׁ צַדִּיק , for his mouth issues a blessing to all, but the harm — חָמָס – done by the evil speech that issues from the mouth of the resha’im – will cover that mouth and block any blessing to them — וּפִי רְשָׁעִים יְכַסֶּה .
(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).
(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.
(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 .
(4) Because the tzadik does good to others it is as though the whole community lays their hands upon his head and blesses him.
(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.
(6) The resha’im try to cover up their wicked behavior, symbolized by covering their mouth, the source of the evil that they do.
(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.
(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.
The primary sources used for the insights illuminating this segment are listed below.
(1) – המאירי, אבן יחייא
(2) – רבינו יונה
(3) – הגר”א
(4) – מלבי”ם
(5) – הגר”א
(6) – מלבי”ם
(7) – רשר”ה
(8) – דעת סופרים