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Mishlei 12-06 (Deceptive Speech)

Mishlei 12-06

Deceptive Speech

Key Concepts

Hashem gave man the precious power of speech so that he can share wisdom, do kindnesses, and communicate with his Creator. (See Segment 10-11.) However, some people use this wonderful gift as a tool to camouflage evil intentions. In effect they have set up an ambush using a flow of mellifluous words to catch the innocent unaware.  Wicked people (resha’im) find this opportunity to gain advantage difficult to resist. However fair-minded people (yesharim) are saved from falling into this pattern of evil because they cannot bring themselves to utter untruths.

Exploring Mishlei

 ו = דִּבְרֵי רְשָׁעִים אֱרָב־דָּם וּפִי יְשָׁרִים יַצִּילֵם

(6) The words of the resha’im lie in ambush for blood by deceiving their victims ,
but the mouth of the yesharim will rescue them
from the temptation to deceive.

In this proverb resha’im and yesharim are contrasted by the way they use their power of speech. The resha’im use it as a means to lay a trap for the unwary and thereby commit serious physical or emotional injury. Either type of injury is
referred as “blood.” The yesharim are protected from the distortion of the power of speech by their allegiance to the truth. They simply cannot bring themselves to utter falsehood despite the temptation.

Learning Mishlei

(6)  The wicked often hide their true intentions, which are to defraud and injure.
They use deceptive words and lies to trick others into lowering their guard. In effect,
the very words of the wicked דִּבְרֵי רְשָׁעִים
lie in ambush for blood אֱרָב־דָּם.
In contrast, the fair-minded are unable to utter an untruth
because they have trained themselves to always be truthful. Thus,
the mouth of the fair-minded וּפִי יְשָׁרִים
will rescue them יַצִּילֵם
 from deceptive speech.

Additional Insights


(1) The resha’im often hide their true intentions. They sometimes camouflage their intent so skillfully that their fair-minded victims, who give them the benefit of the doubt, protect them from culpability. Thus, our ancestor Yitzchak was persuaded that Esav was virtuous. (אלשיך)

(2) Some reshai’m cause harm to the innocent through extended and repeated patterns of malicious gossip. (מלבי”ם)

(3) Other reshai’m promote fraud and larceny with their words by means of their advice to the perpetrators or by false testimony. (רש”י, מצודות)

(4) Resha’im sometimes cover up their evil intentions with innocent-sounding words. With these they are able to ambush the innocent person, catching him unawares, unable to properly defend himself. (הגר”א)


(5) Fair-mindedness refers to the quality of decency that motivates a person to act in a balanced and equitable manner. A person may be fair-minded from birth or as a result of the way he was brought up. A person with this quality is able to recognize and appreciate fair treatment, even in ambiguous situations. See segments 01-01 and 11-03. (רבינו יונה, מלבי”ם)

(6) The mouth of the fair-minded person is unable to utter an untruth because it goes against his basic character traits. This saves him from the sins of the reshai’im. (רשר”ה)

(7) In addition, some of the fair-minded are drawn to investigate and reveal the plots and unjust claims of the reshai’m and to testify in favor of the victims.
(רש”י, מצודות, רבינו יונה, אבן יחייא)

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