Lilui nishmas the 3 kdoshimYaakov Naftali ben Avraham
We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create
z’chuyos for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.
Last week’s stretch of the week was: Look deeper to get to know someone who looks, acts or dresses differently than you do.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
PIRKAY AVOS--ETHICS OF OUR FATHERS
Jealousy, Desire and Glory Remove A Man From The World
אל תסתכל בקנקן אלא במה שיש בו
HaKin'a V'Hata'ava V'haKavod Motzi'in Es Ha'Adam
Perek Daled, Mishna Chaf Ches
Story: (based on a true story)
I watched my daughter Tehilla get on her bus without the normal spring in her step. She’d been stressed out for a few months while applying to seminaries while trying to stay optimistic. Last night we got the letter from her top choice school, just the day after the one from her second choice and her safety school. They all said no. My heart ached for her, and I wondered, why does life need to be so painful?
My neighbor’s daughter just got in to two of the seminaries Tehilla was rejected from. Another neighbor just told me she’s so grateful that none of her kids have learning disabilities. Yet another has a beautiful relationship with her in-laws, who sometimes take one of the kids for Shabbos. None of them routinely walk their small kids to the bus while still in their pajamas and robe with a slipping tichel and a screaming kid, feeling the eyes of those on the block that seem to say, “Oy. It’s too bad she can’t get it together." None seem to be struggling from crisis to crisis.
I am jealous. I want these good things too. When I was growing up I always thought that jealousy and desires were about wanting the amazing eraser collection that Shifra had, or the new bedroom set that Ahava got, or the fancy lunches that Tamar’s mother made for her. I thought that wanting kavod meant wanting to be class president or the most popular girl in the class or valedictorian. I guess life wasn’t too hard for me then, with no significant bumps in the road, or at least none that I knew about. I didn’t understand that wanting normal things or a regular status can also be a problem.
I have heard all of the lessons. You don’t know what’s happening behind other people’s doors. If it was given to you then you can handle it. HaShem’s plan cannot be understood. I know it is all true, but it is so hard when you are going through a hard time and you watch the people around you not having to bear that particular burden. I’ve even been jealous of my parents’ generation; it hurts every time my mother or mother-in-law says, “We didn’t have all this mishegas with my kids; it was much simpler.”
When all the kids were on their buses I pushed myself to daven even though I didn’t much feel like it. After mouthing all the words I gulped down some coffee and called my sister, who I am so thankful for. After I gave her an earful she gave me one.
“You are sad right now about your own life,” she said. “I get that, but it has nothing to do with what other people have. Remember what our principal used to tell us when we said something wasn’t fair? When we’re too busy watching other people’s lives, we can’t keep our eyes on our own. So look at your own situation instead: what can you do to help Tehilla? What can I do?”
It was a needed perspective shift. I could be sad, but I needed to focus my energy productively. I thought for a few minutes, but my head and heart were still swimming, so my sister suggested I ask Tehilla’s high school for help.
I had never really felt that I could rely on my kids’ school to help my kids out effectively the way they seemed to help others. But, after my sister’s mussar schmooze, I decided that it may have been partially due to my perspective so why shouldn't I give it a try? A few minutes later I was talking to the guidance counselor, who promised to speak with the principal and get back to me. Then I called my sister back.
“I figured out what you can do,” I told her. “You can daven. And maybe do a couple of mitzvos in the z'chus that the school should be able to help us.”
That sounded like a good idea for me too. For the rest of my day, every time my thoughts wandered to jealousy of others who didn’t have my problems, I redirected them toward thinking of what I could do for someone else instead. I ran a quick office errand for someone who was extra-swamped at work. I said a perek of t'hi'lim for the young woman I met outside the front desk who was interviewing for a job. I smiled and greeted people at the grocery store and had a conversation with the cashier, a woman I’ve seen at shiurim here and there but who didn’t run in my circles. And I hoped it all would be a z'chus for Tehilla’s plans working out for her.
My story has a happy ending that took a while. The principal made a bunch of calls and really pushed for her, which made both of us feel cared for but yielded no results. For weeks Tehilla had no school until a newly forming seminary reached out to Tehilla’s principal to fill a couple of spots and in the end that's where she went. We were all nervous and it was rocky at first, but in the end worked out well.
My own personal triumph was that as we went through all of this, every time I started to think about how someone else didn’t have to go through all of this, I stopped myself and did something for someone else instead. I was even able to help Tehilla do the same, and she is a better person for it, and much happier, as am I.
HaShem knows why He does the things he does. I have not yet reached the level of Nachum Ish Gam Zu to say, “It’s for the best--it should be that I have none of what others seem to have so much of.” I sometimes question HaShem’s ways by focusing on the fact that some people have and others don’t, and feel that life is too hard. But, I can keep the relationship I have with Him stable by continuing to do His mitzvos. When I am jealous of others I instead focus on what I can do to improve my own situation, whether it is action, davening, or both. And I remind myself that if I’m going to look at someone else’s situation, it should be to help them out.
"רבי אלעזר הקפר אומר: הקנאה והתאוה והכבוד מוציאין את האדם מן העולם."
"Rabi Elazar HaKappar omer: Hakin'a v'hata'ava v'hakavod motzi'in es ha'adam min ha'olam."
"Rabi Elazar HaKappar says: Jealousy, desire and glory remove a man from the world."(Perek Daled, Mishna Chaf Ches).
Jealousy and the pursuit of honor are the source of all social ills, such as hatred, hypocrisy, injustice, slander and rejoicing in others’ misfortune. Lust or desire is the source of evils such as thievery, materialism and the breaking of moral boundaries. One who seeks with an insatiable desire will suffer an enormous punishment: the loss of their portion in the world to come.
By citing these three primary causes of man’s downfall, our mishna is drawing upon ample historical precedent both from the universe’s earliest years and from behavior of the Jewish people in the wilderness, the midbar.
At the beginning of history, Kayin’s jealousy of his brother Hevel led to his downfall. Similarly, the generation of the flood was destroyed because of its insatiable desire. Finally the builders of the Tower of Bavel, motivated by glory, proclaimed, “Na’aseh lanu shaim,” let us make a name for ourselves (B'raishis 11:4). When the Jewish people traveled in the midbar, they too were beset and gravely damaged by these three vices: the jealousy of Korach seeking out Aharon’s prerogatives, the desire of the airev rav who craved meat and choked on quail, and finally, the spies who slandered Eretz Yisrael mainly because of their concern that they would have forfeit their coveted positions upon entering the Promised Land.
The P'nai Menachem recommended a simple antidote to the triple plague of jealousy, desire and glory: displaying an ayin tova, a good eye, to all. If we genuinely believe that everything we possess emanates from HaShem, and that passion or jealousy will not change anything, it follows that we should always act compassionately and with great generosity to our peers. A person motivated by a good eye will always genuinely wish others the best possible outcome and always will be happy with another’s success.
(Reproduced from Rav Lau on Pirkei Avos and from Pirkei Avos with Ideas and Insights of the Sfas Emes and other Chassidic Masters, with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.)
Discussion Question Options:
How does being jealous or desiring things or status we don’t have affect our daily functioning and our self esteem?
What are some ways that work for you in dealing with jealousy
How can boosting our own emuna and performing mitzvos, particularly bain adam l’chavayro, help us not to chase after things that aren’t in HaShem’s plan for us?
Stretch of the Week:
When you feel jealousy or desire for something you can’t have, redirect and help someone out.