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Key Concepts of Segment 11-19 (Perversity and Integrity)
The heart represents the part of the human personality that impels a person to action. Without the involvement of the heart his actions lack emotional drive and passion. But if his heart is given free rein he is at risk of making unwise choices. For a person to consistently do what is right he needs to train his heart to work closely with his intelligence, the seat of his wisdom.
However, if a person allows his heart to be so influenced by the passions of the moment that he reject the laws of wisdom, he may choose to think and behave in a perverse way. He is then said to be an ikesh lev (perverse heart), who follows a crooked way, as described in Segment 10-09. Such a person is an abomination in G-d’s sight.
At the other extreme is a person whose heart is consistently guided by his wisdom. Thus, he is steadfastly sincere in his life-road and is referred to as a chacham lev (wise of heart), as described in Segments 10-08 and 10-09. Such a person pleases Hashem and at all times trusts the good will of Hashem to ensure the best possible outcome.
Between these two extremes is a person who engages in an inner struggle,sometimes following the proper path, but at other times, swerving in response to the passions of the moment. He is then said to lack heart; and is a chasar lev (deficient heart), as described in Segment 07-02.
(כ) תּוֹעֲבַת ה’ עִקְּשֵׁי לֵב וּרְצוֹנוֹ תְּמִימֵי דָרֶךְ:
(20) The perverse of heart are an abomination to Hashem, but He is pleased by those whose way is sincere.
Here Mishlei contrasts two extremes of human behavior with the correspondingl reaction that they elicit from Hashem. Perversity in mankind is viewed as an abomination, since it is based on a rejection of Hashem’s wisdom. Sincerity in following His way is what Hashem expects and that is what pleases Him.
(כ) תּוֹעֲבַת ה’ עִקְּשֵׁי לֵב
וּרְצוֹנוֹ תְּמִימֵי דָרֶךְ:
The obstinately perverse of heart are an abomination to Hashem — תּוֹעֲבַת ה’ עִקְּשֵׁי־לֵב , but He is pleased by those who follow a way that is steadfastly sincere — וּרְצוֹנוֹ תְּמִימֵי דָרֶךְ .
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 perverse of heart may be characterized as those of bad middos (character traits), since a person’s middos are directly controlled by the heart. People with bad middos signify a failure in using wisdom to train the heart.
(2) Perversity of heart brings a person to erroneous behavior and thinking.
(3) The perverse of heart don’t admit the error of their ways and therefore don’t do teshuvah.
(4) Since Hashem is revolted by those who follow a perverted way, he hides His face from them and so they will ultimately perish. But He is pleased by those who consistently follow His way of righteousness and justice.
(5) Those who have naturally well-developed middos or have perfected their middos in accordance with the dictates of their intellect are considered to be on a way that is steadfastly sincere or whole-hearted ( תְּמִימֵי דָרֶךְ ).
(6) The heart represents that component of a man’s personality that is intended to direct all his faculties in accordance with the laws of wisdom, as motivated by the fear of Hashem.
The primary sources used for the additional insights illuminating this segment are listed below.
(1) – רבינו יונה
(2) – רלב”ג, חנוך לנער
(3) – חגר”א
(4) – אבן יחייא
(5) – רבינו יונה
(6) – מלבי”ם