Yet there is another similar verse in Mishlei/Proverbs 10:30:
Rashi says about the tzaddik in this verse:
“When he falters, his faltering is not an eternal falter because he will fall and rise.”
A tzaddik (or potential tzaddik) doesn’t stay down.
Metzudat David says:
“Even if he falters, he will never die because he will return and rise.”
Malbim explains that
“...the weakening [hitmotetut] comes for a reason — meaning, by means of weakness of the legs or a sloping ground. And the tzaddik, even if he should slacken because he didn’t stand upon a good situation, nonetheless, he will not slacken forever because a tzaddik will fall seven times and rise.”
Perhaps his own legs have given out from under him. Or perhaps he finds himself standing on a steep incline.
By the way, it’s interesting to note the Malbim’s language: He doesn’t say that the tzaddik finds himself on a slope because he was dropped there; the implication is that the tzaddik chose the wrong place to stand.
How did the tzaddik get on the sloping incline in the first place? It seems that he put himself there—whether by mistake (he didn’t realize the ground wasn’t straight there) or perhaps he thought he could handle the incline.
Either way, the tzaddik finds himself in a place where he literally cannot stand straight, whether because of the ground or his own legs. He physically cannot walk normally.
He weakens. He falters. He falls. He collapses.
Nonetheless, he gets back up on his feet. Again.
The Vilna Gaon comments:
“That is to say that even if the tzaddik falters sometimes before the rasha, but it is temporary and not forever as stated: 'A tzaddik will fall seven times and rise'…but if the rasha’im begin to fall, they will not dwell further in the land and will not continue to rise. Furthermore, even if now they dwell quietly in the land, they shall not dwell quietly forever.”
A tzaddik gets up after he falls.
A rasha does not. A rasha stays down.
Everyone falls at times. Everyone slackens and falters.
You can even crash and burn.
Maybe it’s your fault.
Then again, maybe it’s the fault of your legs or of the ground you’ve chosen to stand on.
Regardless, what is your response to your vanishing strength, to your faltering and falling?
Do you stay down?
Or do you pick yourself up — yet again?
That’s the defining difference between a rasha and a tzaddik.
How do you respond to your falls and your falters?