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Mishlei 14-09 (Thoughtlessness)

Mishlei 14-09  


Key Concepts

Some people go through life expressing the first thought that comes into their mind. This often results in embarrassment because they have unintentionally insulted someone, hurt someone, or brought up an awkward memory. As a result, such people often have to excuse their inappropriate choice of words. However, once the damage is done it can never be undone and these thoughtless people leave a trail of hurt wherever they go.

The upright person with a well-developed sense of morality is always careful about what he says and how he says it. Before speaking he thinks about why is saying what he is about to say and what its effects might be. He asks himself whether his anticipated words are suited to the situation and the listener. Will they promote goodwill or strife?

Exploring Mishlei

 ט = אֱוִלִים יָלִיץ אָשָׁם וּבֵין יְשָׁרִים רָצוֹן

(9) Fools excuse an offense, but among the upright there is goodwill.

This proverb contrasts the behavior of fools who are constantly having to make excuses for thoughtless remarks with that of upright people who choose their words carefully and always leave an impression of goodwill.

Learning Mishlei

(9) Among fools who talk without thinking אֱוִלִים,
there is a need to excuse the offenseיָלִיץ אָשָׁם
of inappropriate speech,
but the foolishness of fools is וְאִוֶּלֶת כְּסִילִים,
but among the upright וּבֵין יְשָׁרִים
there is always goodwill רָצוֹן
because they choose their words carefully.

Additional Insights

Wisdom in Words

(1) The word אֱוִלִים (fools) refers to foolish people whose behavior shows a weakness in distinguishing right from wrong. This may be due to an inherent skepticism which causes them to question received wisdom. (מלבי”ם)

(2) The word יָלִיץ refers to the act of communicating through speech, especially speech that interprets or sweetens (softens) what is being communcated. The מֵלִיץ can refer to an interpreter. In the sense of sweetening, we find it in Tehillim 119:103 (מַה נִּמְלְצוּ לְחִכִּי אִמְרָתֶךָ, “How sweet to my palate is Your word). In the present proverb it is being used in the sense of an excuse, which softens the effect of a previous action or word. (המאירי, מלבי”ם)

(3) The word אָשָׁם refers a sense of guilt for an offense committed against another person or against Hashem. In the latter sense it refers to the guilt-offering that a person was able to bring to atone for certain types of offenses. In the present proverb it is being used in the sense of an offense against another person committed thoughtlessly, such as an inconsiderate remark. (מצודות, הגר”א)

(4) The word יְשָׁרִים refers to people who are upright and fair-minded. They have an inherent confidence in their sense of right and wrong, which puts them at peace with the will of their Creator. (מלבי”ם)

(5) The word רָצוֹן (goodwill) refers to whatever someone wants, which is what pleases him. (מלבי”ם)

Other Insights

(6) There is continual conflict among the אֱוִלִים because they are constantly communicating through intemperate and crude language. In contrast, the יְשָׁרִים are considerate with each other and so there is a spirit of goodwill among them. (אבן יחייא)

(7) Among foolish אֱוִלִים there is an awareness that they are guilty of offenses against Hashem and they communicate this sense to one another even though they maintain an outward skepticism. In contrast the upright communicate a sense of serenity and harmony, confident in the knowledge that their lives are pleasing to the Creator. (מלבי”ם)

(8) Those who have been foolish enough to stray from the right path need a guilt-offering (אָשָׁם) to be restored to Hashem’s favor. However, for those who have remained יְשָׁרִים, such a sacrifice is not needed. Hashem’s goodwill is with them at all times. (רשר”ה)

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