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Key Concepts of Mishlei 11-08 (Substitution)
In Segment 11-06 we have seen how a good person can be rescued from a potential misfortune. We have also seen that there is a balance in the way Hashem administers the world so that when good people are saved, the adversity that they avoided is applied to bad people who deserve it. This principle of substitution can occur in many ways, one of which is the Purim story, when Mordechai was saved and Haman effectively took his place.
(ח) צַדִּיק מִצָּרָה נֶחֱלָץ וַיָּבֹא רָשָׁע תַּחְתָּיו:
(8) A tzadik eluded distress and a rasha came and took his place.
A good person may escape a misfortune by resisting the temptation of committing an offense for which he would have been punished. A rasha then comes forward of his own volition to commit the offense, thinking to gain by it, but then suffering the very fate which the tzadik avoided. This is what happened when Shaul commanded Avner to destroy the innocent Kohanim of Nov. He refused and Doeg took his place (I Shmuel 22:18).
(ח) צַדִּיק מִצָּרָה נֶחֱלָץ
וַיָּבֹא רָשָׁע תַּחְתָּיו:
By making the right choice, a tzadik eluded a distress — צַדִּיק מִצָּרָה נֶחֱלָץ – and a rasha came to take his place — וַיָּבֹא רָשָׁע תַּחְתָּיו – by making the wrong choice.
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 downfall of the rasha is directly related to the tzadik being saved from a Heavenly judgment that had been issued against the tzadik but was aborted. To maintain the cosmic balance of Heavenly judgments, the rasha becomes subject to that judgment in payment for his own sins.
(2) When a tzadik is saved from danger through his own merit (zechus), that zechus is shared by all people in the vicinity, even resha’im. The enlightened rasha is the one who realizes the debt of gratitude and comes to pay his respects to the tzadik.
(3) When a rasha has in mind to harm a tzadik but his plan is foiled, not only is the tzadik saved, the rasha suffers that very same fate.
(4) When a tzadik resists the temptation of committing a crime and a rasha comes forward to commit that very crime, the rasha will take his place and suffer the penalty that the tzadik escaped.
The primary sources used for the additional insights illuminating this segment are listed below.
(1) -רש”י, מצודות, הגר”א
(2) – אבן יחייא
(3) – חנוך לנער, מלבי”ם
(4) – רשר”ה, דעת סופרים