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Key Concepts of Mishlei 11-07 (Death)
This proverb is a response to those who envy the apparent good fortune of the rasha (wicked person). Such a person may be defined as one who devotes his energies to physical pleasures and accomplishments. When he dies he leaves nothing of spiritual value behind. Thus, all his apparent success is temporary and will come to an end on the day of his death.
(ז) בְּמוֹת אָדָם רָשָׁע תֹּאבַד תִּקְוָה וְתוֹחֶלֶת אוֹנִים אָבָדָה:
When a wicked man dies, hope is lost, and the prospect of physical strength perishes.
The two parts of this proverb are not designed to contrast the rasha with the tzadik as is often the case throughout Mishlei. Insterad the first part deals with the short-term hopes associated with the life of the rasha. All these come to an end when he dies. The second part deals with long-term prospects which he his confident will ultimately happen. These are also doomed to disappointment.
(ז) בְּמוֹת אָדָם רָשָׁע תֹּאבַד תִּקְוָה
וְתוֹחֶלֶת אוֹנִים אָבָדָה:
When a man dies while still a rasha — בְּמוֹת אָדָם רָשָׁע , all hope for him to do teshuvah is lost — תֹּאבַד תִּקְוָה , and the prospect of what can be achieved with his physical strength perishes — וְתוֹחֶלֶת אוֹנִים אָבָדָה . Physical strength is wiped out and he leaves no spiritual legacy behind.
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) The success of the rasha is expressed by his hope for constantly increasing wealth and sensual pleasure. But all that comes to an end on the day of his death.
(2) The rasha has hopes of perpetrating major crimes but all hope for his schemes is lost on the day of his death.
(3) A person who is think about doing teshuvah for his sins should not put it off, for the opportunity to do teshuvah is lost on the day of his death. It is an eternal loss with no hope of remedy.
(4) While he was alive the rasha was accumulating wealth and hoping that it would save him when calamity strikes. But that hope is dashed on the day of his death because then no amount of money will save him. (See Segment 11-04)
(5) The rasha relies only on the uncertain hopes for chance events that will bring him financial success, but when he dies, these hopes vanish.
(6) The long-term prospect of leaving wealth to his children which seems real during his lifetime is placed in jeopardy when he dies.
(7) The expectation of what a man can do with his physical strength vanishes when he dies.
(8) Children expecting to inherit the wealth of their father will find that the prospect of a great inheritance vanishes when his wealth is consumed by creditors and lawyers.
The primary sources used for the additional insights illuminating this segment are listed below.
(1) – רבינו יונה, המאירי, רבינו בחיי, הגר”א
(2) – חנוך לנער
(3) – המאירי, אבן יחייא, חנוך לנער
(4) – שבט מיהודה
(6) – הגר”א, מלבי”ם
(7) – חנוך לנער
(8) – מלבי”ם