Mishlei: Chapter 3: Selections From the Malbim
Transcribed and prepared by Slavie Friedman: Verse 1- The young man is urged to commit to memory the whole of the Almighty’s Torah, which includes commandments that are not in practice today as well as narratives that tell of providence, prophecy, reward and punishment.
Obviously, it’s already a different approach than Rabbenu Yonah. Rabbenu Yonah is saying to use the wisdom that I spoke to you about last week.
These are all to be studied and observed so that they become part of a person’s being. The commandments are specifically those that do affect action and the heart, the emotional center of a person, is a place where they should exert their dynamism. That’s why it says, Mitzvoty which affect your action; Mitzvot should be guarded by your heart. If the emotions are imbued with the Almighty’s will, all will cohere harmoniously in the psychological self. It’s probably true.
The Master of Proverbs promises three levels of well being here. Length of days is a promise of quality of life, days filled with goodness. Years of life is literally the blessing of long life. And finally, these many good years will be a flowing time of peace, of physical, material and domestic serenity, unthreatened with any type of harm. With this, Rabbenu Yonah did not go into much detail.
Kindness and truth. How does he deal with those two? Rabbenu Yonah understood them as middos. The Malbim says as follows:
Kindness and truth can be seen as categories covering most of the Torah. The practical commandments are directed at the area of interpersonal relationships, the area of love and kindness between human beings while the theological aspects of the Torah has to do with “truth,” which is the cognitive content of Torah.
Both of these will become a integral part of the person who is involved in the study of practice of Torah. He’s told to bind them around his neck, to speak of them constantly, until they become part of his own thought structure.
And he is told to write them on the tablet of his heart. The heart, we have indicated, is the emotional and imaginative center of a man, the core of his personality, the most sensitive place, where fantasies and desires breed. Just there, the moral law should be indelibly engraved: then evil will have no power over it.
It’s a much different approach to chesed and emet than Rabbenu Yonah’s, but the same idea of it being engraved in your heart and speaking of it constantly.
Through his own human resources of intellect, a man can achieve social recognition as possessor of grace and good sense. It means you have the recognition as possessing these things.
But only through contact with the Divine Wisdom of Torah can a man achieve grace in the sight of God and also good sense, which denotes the action of Divine inspiration within man, opening up to him an immediate, intuitive comprehension of truth.
Now you have three explanations for seichel tov for when you bentch:
One is that people acknowledge and recognize that you possess seichel tov.
The other one is that it is seichel tov, almost ruach hakodesh, that you have an intuitive appreciation of God’s truth, of larger truths.
Then you have Rabbenu Yonah.
Next paragraph. Now we get to the issue of bitachon at least as far as Rabbenu Yonah is concerned.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely upon your understanding/perceptions.
Before we even go into commentaries, what bothers you about this verse? There’s something strange about it.
Audience- Before he said you have to internalize it. Now he’s saying don’t.
RSW- He’s not saying don’t internalize. He’s saying don’t trust on your perceptions. Don’t rely on them. You’re saying that it still contradicts? You see it as a contradiction?
Audience- That which you have internalized what you are supposed to be doing, should not be relied on.
RSW-As a basis for your decisions. It would seem contradictory. Let’s see if Rabbeinu Yonah answers that. What else bothers you? What is the opposite of having faith? Bitachon. Is it relying on perceptions? Is that the opposite of bitachon? Relying on yourself. Which part of yourself? If I’m going to make a decision, I’m not just going to follow a whim.
He’s juxtaposing two things. One is to use bitachon, trust in God with all your heart. And the opposite is, ‘Don’t rely on your perceptions’.
Is perceptions really what you expect to be there as the other side of the equation? Wouldn’t it be on your own strength, your gut, your knowledge, your experience? All of them but perceptions just doesn’t seem to be the right formula. Then you have your question which is you can’t keep on telling us that all of this is going to develop our perception, develop our perception, develop our perception and then say, ‘Don’t rely on your perception’.
Know Him in all your ways, and He will direct your paths.
We’re going to have to find out the difference between Derech and Orach. The Vilna Gaon says as follows: Derech is ambiguous, meaning a general direction and Orach is a specific place along the path. A derech is to go north, south, east and west, and Orach is which road to take. Should it be the George Washington Bridge or something else?
Do not be wise in your own sight; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
Now he is going back to general things. General broad statements that my mother used to tell me, these pithy sayings everyday that didn’t really affect me that much.
It shall be healing for your navel and marrow for your bones.
Do you have any idea what that means? I just gave you a hint. I said it sounds like all the pithy sayings of my mother. What does your belly button represent?
Audience- A connection to your mother.
RSW- Good, and what comes through there?
Audience- Your life line.
RSW- If it’s saying that it will be healing to your life line, then what do you think it means? Everything that flows into you. Everything that comes in will be healed. Really the word ‘refuah’ means to soften.
Honor the Lord from your substance and from the first of all your grain, and your barns shall be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.
This is a very coherent paragraph. I need Solomon to tell me nice poetic statements about this?
Let’s see what Rabbenu Yonah says. Obviously, this all has something to do with bitachon. Rabbenu Yonah holds that there is no difference between bitachon and emunah. Bitachon is simply a different phase of faith in God. You will never find the word bitachon in the Rambam; you will find emunah. Rabbenu Yonah says that the two are interchangeable.
The Chazon Ish, who lived in this century and died in the fifties, wrote a sefer called Ha’emuna V’habitachon, a thesis of the difference between the demands of emunah and the demands of bitachon. This is a major issue. When people say to you, ‘Do you have bitachon?’ what does it mean? Have bitachon. When someone says, ‘I don’t have money, I can’t find a job’, people always say, ‘Have bitachon, everything will work out’. Let’s see what Rabbenu Yonah says.
You should trust in God and truth. It is written in Chronicles, ‘Beware of the Lord, your Father, and serve him with a complete heart and a soul that desires’. A whole heart means you should believe in God in everlasting faith without any doubts.
To be continued…