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Key Concepts of Mishlei 11-10 (The Community)
The well-being of a community depends on the kind of people who live in it. For example, the presence of tzadikim (righteous people) in a community brings a blessing from Hashem, which results in benefit and honor for the entire community. However, if a community includes resha’im (wicked people) they have a negative effect, undermining the well-being of the community by spreading their opinions, principles and viewpoints. Therefore an enlightened community is glad not only about the happiness of the tzadikim but also about the downfall of the resha’im.
(י) בְּטוּב צַדִּיקִים תַּעֲלֹץ קִרְיָה וּבַאֲבֹד רְשָׁעִים רִנָּה: (יא) בְּבִרְכַּת יְשָׁרִים תָּרוּם קָרֶת וּבְפִי רְשָׁעִים תֵּהָרֵס:
(10) The entire city rejoices in the good of the tzadikim and when the wicked perish, there is jubilation. (11) Through the blessing of the fair-minded the city is uplifted but through the mouth of the resha’im it is ruined.
This segment consists of two proverbs, which contrast the people who are of value to the health of a community with those who degrade the community. The good people are described in terms of two related characteristics, tzidkus and yashrus. Tzidkus is the quality of righteous people (tzadikim) who are motivated by their intense desire to please Hashem and to help their fellow man. Yashrus is the quality of fair-minded people (yesharim), who are motivated by their deeply felt sense of right and wrong. Of course, any one person is likely to have both tzidkus and yashrus in varying degrees.
The wicked people who are destructive of a community are referred to in both proverbs as resha’im. Their presence in the city undermines its peace and welfare. Mishlei implies that a person should seek to live in a city where resha’im are not to be found.
(י) בְּטוּב צַדִּיקִים תַּעֲלֹץ קִרְיָה
וּבַאֲבֹד רְשָׁעִים רִנָּה:
The entire city rejoices in the good of the tzadikim — בְּטוּב צַדִּיקִים תַּעֲלֹץ קִרְיָה because their good brings well-being to all. And when the wicked perish, there is jubilation — וּבַאֲבֹד רְשָׁעִים רִנָּה , because the presence of resha’im undermines the moral level and honor of the entire community.
(יא) בְּבִרְכַּת יְשָׁרִים תָּרוּם
קָרֶת וּבְפִי רְשָׁעִים תֵּהָרֵס:
Through the sincere blessing of the yesharim the city is elevated — בְּבִרְכַּת יְשָׁרִים תָּרוּם קָרֶת , because there is an extra level of sincerity in their good wishes for their fellows. But through the mouth of the resha’im the city is ruined — וּבְפִי רְשָׁעִים תֵּהָרֵס .
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.
TZADIKIM (v. 10)
(1) Tzadikim are loved by the entire community because they actively seek the welfare of all. Thus, everyone rejoices in their well-being.
(2) People are grateful for tzadikim for their very presence in the city is a great zechus (merit). The people are also grateful to the tzadikim for promoting the spiritual growth to help everyone gain a a place in the World to Come.
(3) The quality of tzidkus is oriented towards active benevolence, doing good deeds towards others. This promotes gratitude and so everyone rejoices when the tzadikim are successful.
YESHARIM (v. 11)
(4) The quality of yashrus is oriented towards a deep understanding of right and wrong. Thus, people who are yesharim have an innate kedushah (holiness) which overflows to all in their vicinity. This is expressed as a blessing to the community, elevating it in every dimension.
(5) When the yesharim are themselves blessed with prosperity, everyone feels good about the values that they represent and is encouraged to follow their example. Thus, the entire community is evated.
(6) When people meet each other they express their good wishes in the form of a blessing. Frequently, though, such blessings are mechanical, lacking any heartfelt emotion. The blessings of yesharim, however, are sincere and create an atmosphere of goodwill that elevates the entire city.
RESHA’IM (v. 10-11)
(7) People tend to be unhappy about the presence of resha’im in the city for they are a bad influence on everyone. They lower the standards of religious observance and encourage people to be lax about their obligations. This results in a bad outcome for the entire community. Thus, the people are relieved when the resha’im perish.
(8) Through their evil deeds resha’im draw forth the anger of Hashem which can result in widespread suffering for the entire world. Therefore people are happy to see them gone.
(9) Resha’im cause contention and strife by means of the gossip and slander that they practice. Thus, through their evil mouths they bring ruin to the city.
(10) When the resha’im are in a position of authority, their mouths telling others what to do, their corrupt administration will bring the city to ruin. This is in contrast to the yesharim who, when they are blessed with authority, will cause the city to be elevated.
(11) The resha’im destroy, even when they bless others. They imbed implied denigration within the blessing, either of the one they are blessing, or of another person.
The primary sources used for the additional insights illuminating this segment are listed below.
(1) – רבינו יונה, רלב”ג
(2) – אבן יחייא
(3) – מלבי”ם
(4) – מלבי”ם
(5) – רבינו יונה
(6) – דעת סופרים
(7) – אבן יחייא
(8) – שבט מיהודה
(9) – רבינו יונה
(01) – מצודות
(11) – דעת סופרים