So I decided to zoom in for a closer look and it proved once again how eternal the Torah's insights are for us.
(Thanks for bringing it to attention, Mr. Cohen.)
Take a look:
ט בְּפֶה חָנֵף יַשְׁחִת רֵעֵהוּ; וּבְדַעַת, צַדִּיקִים יֵחָלֵצוּ
B’peh chanef yashchit re’ehu; uvda’at tzaddikim yechaletzu.
9 With his mouth the hypocrite destroys his fellow; but through knowledge shall the righteous be delivered.
That’s chanifah in a nutshell.
So a chanef is a person who commits chanifah.
Personally, I consider chanifah to be hypocrisy more than flattery because you could be flattering someone by gushing about something true. Yet chanifah means that you know that the person or deeds are bad, yet you are basically telling this person that he’s doing just fine.
Furthermore, Malbim defines a chanef as "his inside is unlike his outside; he won’t perpetrate evil openly."
That's a hypocrite.
Anyway, here is my translation of the Vilna Gaon’s commentary on this verse:
With his mouth the hypocrite destroys his fellow — “mashchit/destroy for no reason” is considered a transgression that occurs between a person and God, like they [Brachot 5b] said: “that he destroyed Yisrael for their Father in Heaven.”
And as is said [Mishlei 6:32]: “One who is no’ef a married woman lacks a heart; he destroys his soul — he will do it.”
It is a senseless act because, according to Rashi, it’s not like he was hungry or something & couldn’t stop himself from stealing what didn’t belong to him.
There’s just no excuse to be no’ef; it’s a senseless act that fulfills no real need.
Likewise, Malbim defines a mashchit as someone who "wants to destroy for no reason."
Senseless. No reason. Irrational.
There's a theme here...
The Vilna Gaon continues:
And he who comes to lead astray (l'hadiach) does so with a peh chanef — a hypocritical mouth. For without that, it’s impossible to lead astray.
And therefore, the majority of heretics are good-natured because he even steals the heart of his "friend," and destroys him and leads him astray from the good path.
And that is b’peh chanef — by means of the mouth, the hypocrite will destroy even his “friend.”
...uvda’at tzaddikim yechaletzu — Only the tzaddikim who always toil in the mitzvot of Hashem and know the ways of Hashem — only they will recognize his enticements, that his words turn away from the words of Hashem and they understand that whoever speaks “good words” is a chanef and understanding this, they will be delivered.
And again, if one's "heart" is also synonymous with one's sense and discernment, then the above-mentioned "steals even the heart of his friend" means to completely deceive someone, which destroys that person who considers him a friend, God forbid.
Modern Examples of Harmonious Hypocrites
We see it so clearly today.
Remember how incredibly appealing Obama was?
Or Bill Clinton?
In fact, it’s still hard to emotionally accept the brutal things Wild Bill has done to women despite copious & corroborative testimony. Sure, it’s easy to accept President Affable as an unfaithful dandy. That fits. But the more brutal stuff is very hard to see with his affable personality. Yet the evidence is undeniably against him.
Or look at the Leftist leaders in Eretz Yisrael, who are so full of hatred and disdain for anyone who is not exactly like them, yet convince so many people that they actually care — and that they even know how to fix stuff.
(I mean, do you really want someone who thinks that his time as a B'Machaneh propaganda writer qualifies as "military service" leading your country and making life-and-death decisions regarding national security? Of course not. Yet he has obviously convinced many people that this is a great idea.)
And while this blog has already covered the terrible character of feminist leaders, I didn’t even say everything because I’m always deliberating how much to expose because we already hear so much dirt.
But in addition to being really horrible in general and abusive to their own children, feminist leaders also tend to be just plain bizarre and disgusting.
I mean, let’s take the award-winning novelist & poet who REGULARLY preferred to wet herself in her luxury living room in front of her daughter rather than get off the phone and go to the bathroom — she’s the feminist icon and selected as one of America's Top 100 most beautiful & intelligent women?
Intelligent, eh. Seriously?
They are such bizarre and revolting people, yet they influence minds and policies.
Why? Because as the Vilna Gaon said, most of them are “tovim b’teva—good-natured.”
And yet they are so awful, they even destroy their “friend.” Or child too, I guess.
So what’s the solution?
Our Top-Notch Interpreters
The tzaddik who always toils in the mitzvot of Hashem and knows the ways of Hashem.
Please note that the Vilna Gaon did not say “your local rabbi” or “your favorite speaker” or “the editorial section of your favorite publication" or “your parents” or “your husband” or anything like that—unless, of course, your rabbi/speaker/whoever is indeed a tzaddik who always toils in the mitzvot of Hashem and knows the ways of Hashem.
(The exception, of course, is if your rabbi/speaker/whoever ACCURATELY quotes a tzaddik who always toils in the mitzvot of Hashem and knows the ways of Hashem. But then you’re not relying on that person as the source, but as a faithful messenger of the real source.)
And even if you’re not a tzaddik yourself, my guess is that the more you occupy yourself with Hashem’s mitzvot and learn the ways of Hashem, the more successfully you too can see through all the twisty charm, the seemingly “good” words and catch on to the enticements and destructive ideas that lie in ambush behind all the allure.