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Mishlei 17-11 (Embitterment)

Mishlei 17-11 


Key Concepts

Sooner or later, everyone experiences frustration and disappointment. There are times when things don’t work out as you expected and the good fortune that you thought you deserved does not materialize. So what do you do?

You might be tempted to blame others instead of looking within himself for a  solution to what has happened. If you blame others, you are likely to feel resentful and bitter. This does not solve the problem. Instead, it makes it worse. You end up falling into a downward spiral of recriminations and anger. And so, you become your own worst enemy.

Mishlei describes the perpetrator of the embittered person’s downfall as a cruel angel. In effect this angel is the yetzer hara, the evil inclination that is within him, and which he has failed to master.

Exploring Mishlei

 יא = אַךְ מְרִי יְבַקֶּשׁ רָע וּמַלְאָךְ אַכְזָרִי יְשֻׁלַּח בּוֹ

The embittered person invites only tragedy,
and a cruel angel will be sent against him.

This proverb refers to the embittered person using the word מְרִי, which implies bitterness and rebellion. The bitterness describes the emotion he is feeling. The rebellion describes his reaction to it. He lashes out against any individuals or forces in the world that he holds to blame, and he ends up behaving in a destructive manner. But Mishlei tells him, he is not solving his problem. He is only inviting (אַךְ יְבַקֶּשׁ) a tragic outcome (רָע).

That outcome is conveyed by the cruel angel (מַלְאָךְ אַכְזָרִי) that is being sent against him (יְשֻׁלַּח בּוֹ). It is cruel because it is driven from within himself. He is “eating himself up” with anger and frustration, with no solution in sight.

The message that Mishlei wants him to learn is to use the power of mussar (self-discipline) to analyze himself and change his own thinking. Instead of blaming external factors, let him strive to overcome his challenges by building instead of destroying. Let him work to forgive perceived hurts and ask forgiveness for his own failings. Let him look with gratitude to Hashem for all the good he has experienced over the course of his life and let him resolve to repay that good with all the energy he can muster.

Learning Mishlei

(10) If the embittered person  מְרִי
persists in his misguided way of thinking,
he will only  אַךְ
invite tragedy  יְבַקֶּשׁ רָע
and a cruel angel  וּמַלְאָךְ אַכְזָרִי
of his own making
will be sent against himיְשֻׁלַּח בּוֹ.

Additional Insights

[1] A person who is unhappy with his lot in life, is tempted to blame Hashem for his circumstances and for the problems he sees everywhere. His attitude of resentment and rebellion against his Creator inevitably leads to an evil outcome. He will find problems in this world and will be subject to spiritual judgment in the world to come. (רש”י, מצודות)

[2] Once a person has been overcome by a negative attitude, his only hope is a serious calamity delivered by a cruel angel. That is the only way left of making him stop and realize the error of his ways. (רבינו יונה)

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