A man’s worth is not always evident from outward appearances. People who have succeeded in wealth and position are often thought of highly. But if they are inherently bad people, their true nature will ultimately be recognized. Good people are advised not to be misled. They should not impressed by superficial success, but to look for true worth, which is defined by one’s behavior towards others and one’s obedience to the will of Hashem.
יט = שַׁחוּ רָעִים לִפְנֵי טוֹבִים וּרְשָׁעִים עַל שַׁעֲרֵי צַדִּיק
(19) In the future, bad men, who are honored today,
will be recognized as low in the eyes of good men
and the wicked will be at a disadvantage at the gates of the righteous.
This proverb contrasts the apparent good fortune and social prominence of bad people with their actual status in the eyes of people who are judges of character and can recognize their true worth.
(19) Bad men will be recognized as low — שַׁחוּ רָעִים
in the judgment of good men — לִפְנֵי טוֹבִים
And wicked men — וּרְשָׁעִים
will be at a disadvantage
at the gates of the righteous — עַל שַׁעֲרֵי צַדִּיק
where only worthy people will be honored.
(1) As we have seen in the previous proverb (14-18), the wise man values Torah knowledge. Therefore, it won’t bother him that simpletons don’t recognize the value of what he has achieved. By the same token, the good man, who judges people by their character, will not be impressed by the surface good fortune of bad people. (רבינו יונה)
(2) The proverb can be understood as a consolation to the good man. The apparent advantage of the evil man in this world will be reversed in the world to come. It may even happen in this world. (רש”י, מלבים, מצודות)
(3) What distinguishes the bad person from the wicked person? The wicked person may be kind to other people, but he is sinful in regard to his duty to Hashem. In contrast the bad person is unkind and dishonest towards other people. (שבט מיהודה)
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