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Mishlei 17-19 (Faultfinding)

Mishlei 17-19 


Key Concepts

There are times when constructive criticism is of great value to help people improve themselves. However, such criticism should generally be applied very gently and with great wisdom. Tragedy can result when a person adopts an attitude of continual faultfinding. He falls into the habit of looking for mistakes or defects in everything and criticizing people because of them. In such cases, the critic is not motivated by kindness toward the person that he is criticizing but by the opportunity to demonstrate his own superiority.

The faultfinding critic is happiest in social situations where there is conflict. In such situations he can act more easily as a bully. He can apply his sharp tongue to take control of an argument and emerge in a position of superiority. The victim is  overwhelmed by reluctance to confront the aggressor and has no choice but to accept defeat, at least initially. But the bully must realize that he has created a wounded enemy who will bide his time and may ultimately take his revenge with potentially tragic results.

Exploring Mishlei

 יט = אֹהֵב פֶּשַׁע אֹהֵב מַצָּה מַגְבִּיהַּ פִּתְחוֹ מְבַקֶּשׁ שָׁבֶר

(19) He who loves to find fault loves conflict;
he who opens his mouth arrogantly invites tragedy.

This proverb describes the habitual faultfinder as an אֹהֵב פֶּשַׁע, one who loves to find fault. This instinctive critic tends to promote quarrels by always finding fault and is therefore also an אֹהֵב מַצָּה, a lover of conflict.

The proverb than proceeds to describe how the faultfinder operates. He opens his mouth arrogantly from an elevated position of condescension, מַגְבִּיהַּ פִּתְחוֹ, [literally] “he raises his opening”. By doing so, this bully, who thinks he has improved his relative position in society is actually inviting tragedy, מְבַקֶּשׁ שָׁבֶר.

Learning Mishlei

(19) He who loves to find faultאֹהֵב פֶּשַׁע
loves conflictאֹהֵב מַצָּה
because he can most easily take control of a situation
that is already in turmoil. To achieve his selfish purpose,
the faultfinder opens his mouth arrogantlyמַגְבִּיהַּ פִּתְחוֹ.
but by doing so, he invites tragedyמְבַקֶּשׁ שָׁבֶר.

Additional Insights

[1] Quarrelling can become a passion. A quarrelsome person enjoys expressing his opinion, no matter what the subject is. He likes to be right always, and to have the last word; he quarrels for the sake of quarrelling. (רשר”ה)

[2] The phrase מַגְבִּיהַּ פִּתְחוֹ can be translated as “he raises his doorway.” This suggests someone who displays his sense of superiority at the front entrance of his home even though the rest of the house is small because his act of superiority has no foundation. (מלבים)

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