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Mishlei 22-04


Key Concepts

Humility is a way of thinking about oneself, based on a low opinion of one’s own importance or value. Such a way of thinking leads to a pattern of behavior characterized by selflessness and generosity towards others.

Any desirable qualities with which the truly humble person may be associated, are treated by him as being totally the work of his Creator. Therefore, the humble person does not feel justified in claiming any selfish benefit because of that connection.

This proverb explores what those desirable qualities are and how they are related to the underlying attitude of humility.

Exploring Mishlei

ד = עֵקֶב עֲנָוָה יִרְאַת ה’ עֹשֶׁר וְכָבוֹד וְחַיִּים

(4) A consequence of humility is the fear of Hashem,
as well as wealth, honor, and life.

Because the truly humble person instinctively ascribes all his good qualities, possessions, and achievements to the One Who created him, the humble person naturally harbors a total fear or awe of Hashem. In fact, humility without fear of Hashem is entirely inconceivable. Therefore, the effect of perfect humility upon a life led in obedience to Hashem may be said to be a direct consequence.

The second consequence of humility to be listed in the proverb is wealth, which on the surface does not seem to be the purpose of the humble person. But that depends upon how we define wealth. If a person is called a man of wealth of he reaches what he desires, then the humble person is by definition a wealthy man. This is because he has more than he thinks he deserves, which is more than he might hope for.

The same kind of thinking applies to the reward of honor which the proverb sees as a consequence of humility. A person who thinks of himself as undeserving of honor, is overwhelmed by any honor that is given to him.

The humble person can never be guilty of neglect of duty, because such neglect is a characteristic of selfishness. The humble person can never be selfish because he recognizes the obligation to devote all his energy to the service of his Creator. This is the purpose for which he has been granted life. And so for the duration of his time on earth, every moment of his life is true living.

Learning Mishlei

(4) A consequence of humilityעֵקֶב עֲנָוָה
is fear of Hashem, יִרְאַת ה’
wealth עֹשֶׁר
and honor, וְכָבוֹד
and life וְחַיִּים

Additional Insights

[1] According to the above interpretation of the proverb, the qualities of wealth, honor, and life may be understood as an inherent consequence of humility. (רשר”ה)

[2] An alternate interpretation of the proverb sees wealth, honor, and life as a reward for the self-sacrifice involved in adhering to the attitude of humility. (רבינו יונה)

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