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Mishlei 16-28 (The Community – Strife)

Mishlei 16-28 

The Community – Strife

Key Concepts

Unhappy and bitter people are sometimes motivated to cause dissension in a community by intentionally distorting the truth, by revealing private information, and by finding fault in every situation. And so, they create misunderstandings and strife among friends and families, and even between a husband and wife, the community and its leaders, or the workers and their employer.

What causes people to behave in such a destructive and hurtful way? They may feel resentment or envy because of someone else’s success. They may feel anger at having been slighted intentionally or unintentionally, or they may feel inadequate and want to be noticed or to gain the satisfaction of having an impact on the lives of other people.

Mishlei calls attention to these unfortunate behavior patterns and gives us examples of the harm they can cause. Since anyone may encounter people like this, it is important to recognize their destructive qualities and either avoid them or defend against them. If a person recognizes these qualities within himself, he can work to resist them and possibly even overcome them.

 Exploring Mishlei

כח = אִישׁ תַּהְפֻּכוֹת יְשַׁלַּח מָדוֹן וְנִרְגָּן מַפְרִיד אַלּוּף

(28) A treacherous man incites strife by distorting the truth,
and a fault finder alienates a ruler
from his people.

This proverb takes two examples of destructive behaviors and shows the harm they cause. The treacherous man intentionally perverts the truth and thereby sows suspicion and ill will between people. The fault finder looks for the weaknesses in any situation and publicly assigns blame. People then begin to lose confidence in their leaders or employers who in turn become defensive because they have been unfairly charged.

Learning Mishlei

(28) A treacherous man — אִישׁ תַּהְפֻּכוֹת
incites strife —
יְשַׁלַּח מָדוֹן
by distorting the truth,
and a fault finder —
alienates a ruler —
מַפְרִיד אַלּוּף,
separating him from his people.

Additional Insights

(1) The treachereous man is fickle by nature, constantly changing his assessments of good and bad. His motivation is not to promote a particular point of view, but to provoke quarrels by misquoting people.  (מלבי”ם, מצודות, אבן יחייא)

(2) The fault finder constantly complains and criticizes the product of honest effort, no matter what it is. He imputes false motives and thereby awakens blame. He  reveals private behavior in a way that may easily be misinterpreted.
(מלבי”ם, חנוך לנער)

(3) By provoking quarrels, the treacherous man causes others to emulate his patterns of destructive behavior. (אבן עזרא)

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