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Key Concepts of Mishlei 11-22 (Hope and Desire)
This proverb compares hope and desire as they are experienced by tzadikim (righteous people) and resha’im (wicked people)
Desire may be viewed as an emotion that motivates a person to engage in behavior which will gratify that emotion. A person may or may not proceed to act on his desire, depending on whether he judges the outcome of the behavior as being in his own interest or beliefs. For example, what are the chances of being harmed by the contemplated behavior? Is the contemplated behavior morally good?
A tzadik trains himself to enhance desires that are good and suppress desires that are immoral or unethical. In this way he protects himself from the consequences of bad behavior. He orients his desires to the emotions associated with doing mitzvos and serving Hashem. In contrast, the concerns of a rasha are oriented to the degree of physical pleasure he anticipates.
Hope may be viewed as a judgment of the likelihood a desired event will take place. The hopes of a tzadik are fueled by his bitachon (trust) that Hashem controls the world. The hopes of resha’im are fueled by the often unrealistic expectations of a favorable outcome, like winning the lottery. The result of such hopes is likely to be disappointment and anger.
(כג) תַּאֲוַת צַדִּיקִים אַךְ־טוֹב תִּקְוַת רְשָׁעִים עֶבְרָה:
(23) The desire of tzadikim is only for good; the hope of resha’im [ends up as] anger.
This proverb looks at desire from the point of view of tzadikim because these are people who have worked to control their desires and elevate them. They have consciously chosen to emphasize desires that are inherently good and that will please their Creator.
The proverb looks at hope from the perspective of resha’im because these are people who will be dramatically affected by failed hopes. In contrast to the tzadikim who reap the benefits that come from controlling their desires, the resha’im are doomed to frustration .
(כג) תַּאֲוַת צַדִּיקִים אַךְ־טוֹב
תִּקְוַת רְשָׁעִים עֶבְרָה:
The desire of tzadikim is only for good — תַּאֲוַת צַדִּיקִים אַךְ־טוֹב – because they train themselves to focus on desires that lead to morally good behavior.. The hope of resha’im ends up as anger — תִּקְוַת רְשָׁעִים עֶבְרָה – because Hashem sees to it that their unrealistic expectations are frustrated.
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 expression אַךְ־טוֹב (only good) teaches that tzadikim suppress all desires that fail to lead to an outcome that is clearly good. The focus of their desires is on being able to do mitzvos and serve Hashem.
(2) Even when tzadikim are engaged in material matters, such as eating and drinking, their intent is to serve Hashem and He counts it as such.
(3) Because tzadikim are drawn to what is good, Hashem sees to it that they achieve their destiny of spiritual good.
(4) The resha’im hope to indulge in anger for they find pleasure in being angry at others.
(5) The resha’im are drawn to evil. Thus, they hope for it and are eager for it to come about. In this way they earn the anger of Hashem.
(6) Even when resha’im do something good, their overall framework of behavior is evil and so the hope of a good outcome is never fulfilled.
(7) The concept of desire is independent of fulfillment. However, because the desires of the tzadikim are worthy, they are granted fulfillment by Hashem. In contrast, the concept of hope is based on fulfillment. However, because the hopes of the resha’im are unworthy they will not be fulfilled and nothing will remain of their hopes but anger.
The primary sources used for the additional insights illuminating this segment are listed below.
(1) – אבן עזרא, רבינו יונה, מצודות, הגר”א
(2) – המאירי, חנוך לנער, שבט מיהודה
(4) – אבן עזרא, מצודות
(5) – רבינו יונה, רלב”ג
(6) – המאירי