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Key Concepts of Mishlrei 11-02 (Malice and Modesty)
A person of low character allows his natural selfishness to dominate his personality. (See Segment 03-07.) As a result he becomes inconsiderate to others and aggressively exploits his relationship with them. This malicious tendency inevitably leads to shame and disgrace. The quality of malice may be contrasted with the quality of modesty, which is is practised by unselfish people who want to avoid drawing attention to themselves. By developing their natural reserve, they live a life that is conducive to wisdom, which they gain by listening and learning.
(ב) בָּא־זָדוֹן וַיָּבֹא קָלוֹן וְאֶת־צְנוּעִים חָכְמָה:
(2) [When] malice comes, disgrace follows, but with modesty, there is wisdom.
This proverb associates two contrasting character attributes (malice and modesty) with their consequences (disgrace and wisdom). To avoid disgrace and acquire wisdom the listener is urged to suppress any malicious tendencies and practice modesty in his behavior.
(ב) בָּא זָדוֹן וַיָּבֹא קָלוֹן
וְאֶת צְנוּעִים חָכְמָה:
When malice comes, disgrace follows — בָּא־זָדוֹן וַיָּבֹא קָלוֹן , but with modesty, there is wisdom — וְאֶת־צְנוּעִים חָכְמָה .
A series of insights illuminating this proverb are presented below. The numbers identifying the insights refer to the listing of sources of at the end of the segment.
(1) The malicious person gets pleasure from humiliating others. Thus, humiliation and embarrassment follow in his wake.
(2) The malicious person vents his anger when a situation bothers him. The object of his anger is humiliated.
(3) The malicious person has no patience and doesn’t respect the opinions of others. He lacks caution and when this leads to failure, he suffers shame.
(4) The malicious person associates with others of bad character. He brings shsame upon himself.
(5) The malicious person cheats and deceives. He then curses the victim who accuses him of deception. The two parties raises their voices in anger, resulting in disgrace for both.
(6) The malicious person is not interested in the truth. He uses knowledge only for personal advanmtage, to make himself look good. Shame follows because he humilates others.
(7) The malicious person is a skeptic who scoffs at the Torah and men of wisdom. He chooses a life of disgrace, bereft of moral and ethical standards.
(8) The modest person restrains himself from aggressively speaking his mind. He keeps a low profile out of humility, but focuses on listening and learning from others. Therefore, he is likely to acquire wisdom.
(9) The modest person associates with people of wisdom who have the habits of reserve.
(10) The modest person is careful not to embark on any venture without careful investigation. His activities are associated with wisdom.
(11) The modest person humbly accepts the teachingss of morality and ethics. Therefore his life is accompanied by wisdom. (Malbim)
The primary sources used for the insights illuminating this segment are listed below.
(1) – רבינו יונה, מצודות
(2) – רבינו יונה
(3) – רלב”ג
(4) – המאירי
(5) – אבן יחייא, חנוך לנער
(6) – הגר”א
(7) – מלבי”ם
(8) – רבינו יונה, מצודות, הגר”א
(9) – המאירי
(01) – רלב”ג
(11) – מלבי”ם