Intelligence / Character
Every person is created with a degree of intelligence which is needed in solving the problems of everyday life, especially those concerned with human relationships. Intelligence is especially important to a chacham (wise man) so that he can be effective in acquiring wisdom and teaching it to others. That ability depends on his developing his character by suppressing his ego and strengthening his humility.
If his intelligence is accompanied by good middos (character traits), Hashem blesses the chacham and grants him the special quality of chein (favor or charisma) that draws people to him and makes them receptive to his teachings. However, there are wicked people who are so entrenched in their treacherous ways that even a gentle man of good mind cannot convince them to change.
טו = שֵׂכֶל־טוֹב יִתֶּן־חֵן וְדֶרֶךְ בֹּגְדִים אֵיתָן
(15) A good mind wins favor,
but the way of the treacherous is unbending.
This proverb identifies the combination of intelligence and good middos that are the key to the kind of goodwill that enables someone to readily and gently influence others. In contrast we find treacherous people of crude character who do not
respond to gentle influence.
(15) Intelligence with good character — שֵׂכֶל־טוֹב
elicits goodwill — יִתֶּן־חֵן
but the way of — וְדֶרֶךְ
treacherous people — בֹּגְדִים.
is unresponsive to influence — אֵיתָן
Wisdom in Words
(1) Intelligence (שֵׂכֶל) gives a person the ability to intuitively grasp abstract
concepts. The addition of “good” (טוֹב) denotes an additional dimension of Divine inspiration that is granted to someone who has developed his good middos. (רבינו יונה, מלבי”ם)
(2) A person who uses his intelligence for “good” will find that his intelligence is appreciated and admired, resulting in goodwill from those who come in contact with him. (אבן עזרא)
(3) The person of “good” intelligence persuades others to follow his way by living it and showing them its sweetness. The people of opposite character must use
underhanded methods because their way is a way of visible harshness. They have to resort to their wealth and power to get cooperation. (רלב”ג, רבינו יונה, שבט מיהודה)
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