NAFSHI

A Unique Online Torah Learning Resource

Mishlei 19-06 (Approval)

 
 
Key Concepts of Mishlei 19-06 (Approval)
People have an innate desire to be liked by others. As a result they are inclined to conduct themselves in such a way as to win the approval of everyone who knows them. This sounds good at first but it implies an inclination to be swayed by flattery and pretension.
The principles that guides human behavior should be truth and righteousness rather than what will look good in the eyes of other people. This means a person should always be asking himself what will please Hashem rather than what what will please various individuals. This is a very difficult thing to do because the reaction of other people to a person’s behavior is often immediately apparent, at least on the surface. In contrast, we are constantly being tested to focus in on what is right, even though Hashem’s approval or disapproval is not visible.
To help guide us in our choice of whose approval to seek, Mishlei presents us with two related proverbs. These proverbs demonstrate that the approval of other people is not a reliable indicator in managing our life. We see that a philanthropist is constantly besieged by people eager to shower him with their sincere approval if they would only make a desperately needed donation to the cause they are convinced is most worthwhile at a particular moment.
We also see that a poor man is often frustrated by the coldness and rejection of people who could help him. These people may resent the implication that the poor man is putting them on the spot or that he is not sufficiently grateful for help they may have given him in the past. If they are his relatives they may resent being associated with someone who makes them look bad.
The message here is that to focus completely on winning the approval of other people is unwise. Those other people will likely be motivated by their own personal needs and expectations. They may want the best for him, but they may have hidden agendas that he would not agree with. Instead, a person should focus on doing what is right.
 
Clearly, he should seek Torah guidance whenever this presents a problem to him.
Exploring Mishlei
(ו) רַבִּים יְחַלּוּ פְנֵי נָדִיב וְכָל הָרֵעַ לְאִישׁ מַתָּן:
Many seek the favor of a philanthropist and everyone is a friend to a giving man.
(ז) כָּל אֲחֵי רָשׁ שְׂנֵאֻהוּ אַף כִּי מְרֵעֵהוּ רָחֲקוּ מִמֶּנּוּ מְרַדֵּף אֲמָרִים לוֹ הֵמָּה:
All a pauper's relatives shun him, even his friends withdraw from him. Though he pursues [them] with words, [the words] remain his.
The first of these two proverbs concerns itself with people are known in the community as generous individuals. As we have previously seen in pasuk 4 above, the friendship of others towards a rich man may not really be friendship to him, but friendship to his wealth. He can easily be misled to think that everybody likes him and approves of him, no matter how he behaves. That could be a serious mistake.
Similarly, the poor man may find himseld shunned, not only by strangers, but even by close relatives. He may have disappointed them in their expectations of him, even though their expectations are unrealistic. Since they don’t share their thoughts with him, he has no way way of telling them how wrong they are.
Learning Mishlei
(ו) רַבִּים יְחַלּוּ פְנֵי נָדִיב 
וְכָל הָרֵעַ לְאִישׁ מַתָּן:
Many seek the favor of a philanthropist — רַבִּים יְחַלּוּ פְנֵי נָדִיב They grant him their approval even when it is undeserved because they are hopeful for his future generosity. And everyone is a friend to a giving man — וְכָל הָרֵעַ לְאִישׁ מַתָּן .
 
 
 
 
(ז) כָּל אֲחֵי רָשׁ שְׂנֵאֻהוּ 
אַף כִּי מְרֵעֵהוּ רָחֲקוּ מִמֶּנּוּ 
מְרַדֵּף אֲמָרִים לוֹ הֵמָּה:
All a poor man’s relatives shun him — כָּל אֲחֵי רָשׁ שְׂנֵאֻהוּ , even his friends distance themselves from him — אַף כִּי מְרֵעֵהוּ רָחֲקוּ מִמֶּנּוּ They may see him as an embarrassment because they expected him to make more of himself. Though he pursues them with words, the words remain his — מְרַדֵּף אֲמָרִים לוֹ הֵמָּה .
Additional Insights
(1) The concepts behind these two proverbs may be explored further in a study of the sefer Chovos Halevavos, Shaar 5, Yichud HaMaaseh.
(2) In an alternate interpretation to the ideas of material wealth in the above commentary, Mishlei is seen as referring to the wealth of Torah knowledge. Just as material wealth can distort people’s expectations of each other so can their their thoughts about the knowledge they share and the knowledge they withhold. ( רש"י, הגר"א )