Because we have been given free will we are under the illusion that we are in control of our lives. However, we regularly experience unexpected events that may impact us in minor or major ways. These events may cheer us up or sadden us, but their common characteristic is to encourage us to question the choices we have been making and to consider strengthening or changing the behavior we have adopted.
Mishlei advises us to recognize that what is happening to us is a series of customized interventions into our consciousness by Hashem. If we respond as we should, we will find that these interventions lead to continued moral and spiritual growth.
As we have seen, Mishlei uses two terms to address such interventions. The first is mussar (moral discipline) and the second is tochachah (reproof or rebuke). In general, mussar is related to the idea of the correction of past errors. It emphasizes a person’s middos (moral character) and suggests the deterrent power of punishment either through actual suffering or through self-analysis. In contrast, tochachah refers to a gentle admonition or reproof, resulting in a motivation to goodness and spiritual growth.
י = מוּסָר רָע לְעֹזֵב אֹרַח שׂוֹנֵא תוֹכַחַת יָמוּת
(10) Painful discipline is designated for the one who forsakes the path of Hashem.
The one who hates rebuke will die.
In its most urgent form, a person who forsakes the right path in life may be subject to pain and suffering. If he responds to this challenging experience by reforming his behavior he can hope for relief. However, if someone hates rebuke, there is no way to reach him and he will ultimately die without having changed his ways.
(10) Painful discipline — מוּסָר רָע
is designated for the one who forsakes the path of Hashem — לְעֹזֵב אֹרַח.
As for the one who hates rebuke — שׂוֹנֵא תוֹכַחַת
he will die — יָמוּת
without repentance for he has no way of repenting.
(1) Mishlei distinguishes between good mussar and bad mussar. Good mussar consists of warnings of what may go wrong. Bad mussar (מוּסָר רָע) consists of actual pain and suffering. If good mussar is not effective, bad mussar may be needed to shake the person up and make him realize the seriousness of his spiritual predicament. (מלבי”ם)
(2) A person who forsakes the way of Hashem may be subject to painful mussar, but there is still hope that he will change. But if he hates listening to reproof, there is no hope for him and he will die. (רבינו יונה)
NOTE: For a PDF copy of this segment, please click on the blue title below.
This will enable you to print out the entire text of the article.