NOTE: For a PDF copy of this segment, please click here. This will enable you to print out the entire text of the article. [Rev 1]
Key Concepts of Mishlei 11-27 (Accountability)
It is human nature to assume that when things go well they will continue to go well. A person who knows he is doing what is morally or ethically wrong, but sees that life is good, may find it easy to convince himself that he will not be held to account for his sins. Mishlei reminds him in this segment that in the end he will have to pay for every offense against his Creator.
(לא) הֵן צַדִּיק בָּאָרֶץ יְשֻׁלָּם אַף כִּי־רָשָׁע וְחוֹטֵא:
(31) If the tzadik is repaid while yet on earth; how much more so will the rasha and the sinner!
This proverb suggests that the sinner learn a lesson from the life of the the tzadik. Even though the tzadik is on a high spiritual plane, he is held to account for every sinful act. Even though David HaMelech was a very righteous king, he had to endure severe torment because of the few sins of which he was guilty. He was only forgiven after undergoing an intense period of teshuvah (repentance).
Thus, the tzadik is repaid on earth for every sin. Accordingly, the rasha (wicked person) who is guilty of a pattern of sinful behavior, whether intentional or through carelessness, must come to the conclusion that he will ultimately have to pay for his offense, either in this life or in the World to Come.
(לא) הֵן צַדִּיק בָּאָרֶץ יְשֻׁלָּם
אַף כִּי־רָשָׁע וְחוֹטֵא:
If the tzadik is repaid — יְשֻׁלָּם הֵן צַדִּיק – for his slightest offense while he is yet on earth — בָּאָרֶץ , how much more so will the wicked rasha and the inadvertent sinner — אַף כִּי־רָשָׁע וְחוֹטֵא – have to render an accounting for their sins, either here or in the next world!
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. The insights are grouped by whether the emphasis is on teaching a person to expect to pay for his sins (as in the explanation above), or whether the emphasis is on teaching him to expect payment of reward or punishment for his deeds, as appropriate.
PAYMENT FOR SIN
(1) If the tzadik is punished in this world for his sins, a rasha will surely be punished, either in this world or the world to come.
PAYMENT FOR DEEDS IN GENERAL
(2) If the tzadik is rewarded in this world for his good deeds, the rasha will surely be punished for his bad deeds, either in this world or the world to come.
(3) Even when the tzadik is suffering for his bad deeds in this world while the rasha is benefiting from his good deeds, the payment for the bad deeds of the rasha and good deeds of the tzadik will surely come in the next world.
The primary sources used for the additional insights illuminating this segment are listed below.
(1) – רש”י, אלשיך, מצודות, שבט מיהודה, רשר”ה
(2) – אבן עזרא
(3) – רבינו יונה, המאירי, אבן יחייא, הגר”א,