A person’s true character is tested when misfortune strikes. If he shows steadfastness and perseveres in his righteous way of life, he is worthy. But if he becomes quickly discouraged and allows himself to be dislodged from his good intentions he reveals his weak character.
Many people pay lip service to their claims of trust in Hashem. As long as things go well this is easy to do. But in the face of tragedy, only the truly devoted person is able to carry on and put his complete reliance upon his Creator.
לב = בְּרָעָתוֹ יִדָּחֶה רָשָׁע וְחֹסֶה בְמוֹתוֹ צַדִּיק
(32) In his time of adversity the rasha is dislodged from the right way,
but if he trusts in Hashem, even at his death, he is a tzadik.
This proverb compares the rasha and the tzadik in their response to adversity. The rasha is easily dislodged from the right way because his commitment was never that strong. However, the tzadik perseveres in his trust of Hashem. He knows that even if he lacks a full understanding of what has happened, he owes Hashem his loyalty, even when his death is near.
(32) In his time of adversity — בְּרָעָתוֹ
the rasha allows himself to be pushed away — יִדָּחֶה רָשָׁע
from the right path.
But if he trusts in Hashem — וְחֹסֶה
even at his death — בְמוֹתוֹ,
he is a tzadik — צַדִּיק .
(1) In the face of adversity, the man of weak character becomes angry at his fate or His Creator and feels justified in behaving dishonestly and wickedly. (רלב”ג, שבט מיהודה)
(2) A person may seem at the peak or saintliness and nobility, but there is a rot in his character, he can fall to the greatest depth of perversion and corruption when misfortune strikes. (מלבי”ם)
(3) A person may pretend to believe that Hashem will reward the righteous and punish the wicked, but if his belief is insincere it will be tested by adversity. (חנוך לנער)
(4) When a weak person experiences tragedy he may feel rejected by Hashem. He may lose all hope and give up on making an effort to do what is right. But the tzaddik has complete trust so that no matter how bad things are he has the attitude that Hashem will carry him through it. (חבל נחלה)
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Mishlei 14-32 (Steadfastness) PDF version