If we would concentrate on fulfilling the commandment to “love your fellow as yourself,” we would never feel jealous of others who have more than we do.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, rabbinic director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is Va’etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11). It is one of the more distinct Torah portions in the book of Deuteronomy, as it includes a “re-run” of the Ten Commandments that were given back in the Book of Exodus. One of the Ten Commandments reads as follows:
And you shall not covet your fellow’s wife, you shall not desire your fellow’s house, his field, his slave, his servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that belongs to your fellow.” (Deuteronomy 5:18)
The commandment of “thou shall not covet,” meaning “do not be jealous of others,” is a very difficult mitzvah to observe. How can we control our deepest emotions? As famous Torah commentator Ibn Ezra asks: “How can the Torah command us not to feel an emotion that comes naturally when we’d like to have something that we see that someone else has? How can I be expected not to wish that I too had the fancy car, vacations, backyard pool and more?
Ibn Ezra answers this question with a parable.
Imagine a commoner who visits the royal palace. During the course of his tour, the princess makes an unexpected appearance. She is very beautiful. The commoner is completely blown away by the charm and dignity of the princess. He’d love to marry her. But would he ever dream of asking her attendants to arrange a date? Of course not! Everyone knows that the princess is off limits to a commoner. She could only marry a prince, someone with royal blood who is in her own league. He would never stand a chance.
This is true regarding the commandment not to be jealous of other peoples’ possessions, says Ibn Ezra. There are some things that are out of reach for us. There are some things that God just does not want us to have. We must realize that what God gives to others is what he wants them – not us – to have. And this is true with everything in life. I assure you that if we can train ourselves to believe that everything we have is because God wants us to have it, we would never violate this commandment.
There is another way for us to help internalize and better fulfill the commandment not to envy others. Our sages teach that the commandment Ve’ahavta lerei’acha kamocha – “Love your fellow as yourself” – is closely related, even mystically so, to the commandment Lo tachmod – “Do not be jealous.” To understand the connection, think about this: Do parents ever become jealous if their children become wealthier than they are? Of course not! Why? Because parents love their children just as much as they love themselves, if not more!
Therefore, it is explained, if we would better fulfill the mitzvah of loving each other as we love ourselves, we would never feel jealous of those who have more than we do. In fact, we would even be happy for them, just as we are happy when our own children are more successful.
Don’t be jealous of others! It’s easier than you think!
For more insights by Rabbi Ari Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.