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Key Concepts of Mishlei 16-24 (Pleasing Words)
Wisdom reaches a fulfilled state when it takes the form of carefully chosen words delivered by a wise teacher to an attentive student. The teacher is motivated not only to guide his listener but also to please him.
To help us visualize the effect of the pleasing words of wisdom, Mishlei compares them to the sweetness of honey upon the tongue. The sweetness of wisdom can be tasted by the soul. It even brings healing and well-being to the body. This is because it teaches self-discipline, which is essential to happiness.
(כד) צוּף דְּבַשׁ אִמְרֵי נֹעַם מָתוֹק לַנֶּפֶשׁ וּמַרְפֵּא לָעָצֶם:
Words of pleasantness are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bone.
To emphasize the unique sweetness of wisdom, Mishlei compares it not only to honey whose pleasure is momentary, but also to a honeycomb whose pleasure is lasting. Whereas the sweetness of honey can only affect the body, the sweetness of wisdom affects the soul.
To express the effect of wisdom upon the body, Mishlei identifies it as the bone, which is the body’s structural core.
(כד) צוּף דְּבַשׁ אִמְרֵי נֹעַם
מָתוֹק לַנֶּפֶשׁ וּמַרְפֵּא לָעָצֶם:
Words of pleasantness have the sweetness of a honeycomb — צוּף דְּבַשׁ אִמְרֵי נֹעַם . They are sweet to the soul and bring healing to the bone — מָתוֹק לַנֶּפֶשׁ וּמַרְפֵּא לָעָצֶם .
A series of insights illuminating this proverb are presented below. The numbers identifying the insights refer to the listing of sources at the end of the segment.
(1) Words of wisdom are pleasing to the soul because they give the kind of mussar guidance that a person appreciates to help him develop his character. They are also pleasing to the body because they help him manage the ordinary challenges of life.
(2) The honeycomb represents a quality of sweetness that is better than honey. Likewise the words of wisdom are better than honey because a person has only a limited capacity to absorb honey, whereas there is no limit to his ability to absorb wisdom.
(3) Wisdom is described as healing because it helps him recover from all kinds of bad character traits.
The primary sources used for the additional insights illuminating this segment are listed below.
(1) – מצודות
(2) – המאירי
(3) – המאירי