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Key Concepts of Mishlei 10-11 (Speech)
Hashem gave man the precious power of speech so that he can share wisdom, do kindnesses, and communicate with His Creator. Thus, when used by a righteous person (tzadik) the human mouth becomes a source of life. In contrast, wicked people (resha’im) use the mouth as an instrument to mislead so that the victims of their selfishness are prevented from defending themselves.
(יא) מְקוֹר חַיִּים פִּי צַדִּיק, וּפִי רְשָׁעִים יְכַסֶּה חָמָס:
(11) The mouth of the tzaddik is a wellspring of life, but the mouth of the resha’im conceals [their] harm.
The tzadik uses his mouth to fulfill the purpose for which it was given to him. And the wisdom that he communicates with this powerful instrument is the key to life for those who receive it, as described in Mishlei Segment 03-04 (Wisdom, the Key to Life).
However, because of its great power, the mouth can easily be misused to cause great harm. One way is to cover up evil intentions so that the resha’im can carry out their evil designs.
The mouth of resha’im was previously featured in Mishlei Segment 10-06 (Blessings for Life). In that proverb, whose words parallel the second part of the present proverb, Mishlei pointed out how the evil speech that issues from the mouth of the resha’im serves as an obstacle to block the flow of blessings rather than a conduit for good.
(יא) מְקוֹר חַיִּים פִּי צַדִּיק,
וּפִי רְשָׁעִים יְכַסֶּה חָמָס:
The mouth of the tzadik is a wellspring of life — מְקוֹר חַיִּים פִּי צַדִּיק – because of the life-giving wisdom he shares, but the mouth of the wicked creates false illusions and conceals the harm — וּפִי רְשָׁעִים יְכַסֶּה חָמָס – that they are perpetrating.
THE MOUTH OF THE TZADIK
(1) The wisdom issuing from the mouth of the tzadik offers guidance which gives life to those who learn from it.
(2) The wisdom flowing from the mouth of the tzadik may becompared to the life-giving water flowing from a bubbling spring.
(3) The tefillos issuing from the mouth of the tzadik draw forth life-giving blessings from Hashem to the world.
THE MOUTH OF RESHA’IM
(4) The speech issuing from the mouth of resha’im covers up the hatred that is buried in their heart.
(5) The resha’im are skeptical of the wisdom issuing from the mouth of the tzadik. They try to turn the tables on him and accuse him of what they are guilty of, that is, using the power of speech to cover up harm.
(6) The resha’im cover the world in harm because their evil speech draws forth defensive arguments from those they accuse. The result is an endless interplay between hurt and harm.
The primary sources used for the insights illuminating this segment are listed below.
(1) – אבן עזרא
(2) – רבינו יונה
(3) – שבט מיהודה
(4) – רש”י
(5) – אלשיך
(6) – הגר”א