We are here to improve our relationships with others
in order to transform the Jewish people in these urgent times.
Last week’s Stretch of the week was: This week when you give someone constructive criticism, do it with compassion and understanding rather than with anger and accusations.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Coveting The Possessions Of Others
Lo Sachmode V’Lo Sis'a've
Judaism teaches us the importance of not coveting (lo sachmode) and, more specifically, not coveting the possessions of your friend (lo sis'a've) (Devarim 5:18). The Torah forbids us to desire another Jew’s possessions or from taking measures to acquire them. This applies whether we are pressuring another person to sell an item to us against his wishes or whether we are pleading with him to give something to us as a gift. If the item is for sale, pressuring the seller to reduce the price is considered a normal negotiation technique and is permissible.
The underlying flaw that leads a person to desire something that belongs to another and to take measures to acquire it is envy (kin'a). According to the letter of the law, simply feeling envious of another’s possessions does not constitute violation of either of the two mitzvos as long as we have not schemed, taken action or spoken up in order to acquire them. Nevertheless, the character trait (midda) of envy is highly undesirable.
Were it not for envy, a person would be able to manage with only the minimum requirement of food, clothing and living accommodations. People in our generation have become increasingly more focused with “keeping up with the Joneses” – exerting ourselves physically and emotionally to attain a lifestyle based on society’s superficial and extravagant standards. Eliminating this non-constructive trait would greatly enhance the quality of our lives.
(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
Story: (based on a true story)
I grew up in an upper class home in the heart of America. I always had what I needed, and was given what I wanted. I don’t remember ever feeling a sense of lack. When I noticed that others did not possess what our family had in abundance, I was committed to helping them feel comfortable and taken care of. I lived with this mindset for the first 25 years of my life.
As I grew older, married, and started a family, the financial stress of our newly established family gradually worsened. Whereas I was accustomed to a certain standard of living, my husband was raised in a simple home with few luxuries and wasn’t challenged as much as I was. When the recent financial crisis hit, our monetary status was threatened but we were able to recover slowly and still manage to make ends meet.
As we endured this challenge, I found myself becoming bothered by certain things that I hadn’t previously noticed but that now began to gnaw at me. While we were in no position to renovate our home, buy new clothing or donate generous amounts of tzedaka, there were many people in town who were able to live prosperously in spite of the financial crisis. I began to notice home improvement signs posted on my neighbors’ front lawns and newly acquired cars. As crazy as it sounds, I even started to desire the contents of other women’s shopping carts, full of fresh meat and expensive snack foods.
I never considered myself to be a jealous person, but I realize that this may have been due to the fact that I never lacked for anything materially. I perceive myself as growth oriented, continuously focused on incorporating Torah values (such as being happy with what I have) into my daily life. However, the sharp contrast between the way others were living and the plight I had to accept, were miles apart. I tried to keep a smile on my face (at least in public) but inside I was suffering terribly.
One day my 8-year-old son Ari returned from school, jumped on my lap, gave me a big kiss and said “Mommy, I love you so much!” Ari is an affectionate child by nature, but somehow there seemed to be a reason for his added measure of passion.
“I love you too Ari! Tell me what happened in school today!” I answered.
“Mrs. Tendler asked us to write in our journals about all the things we have that are good. I normally don’t like journal time but when I started writing I had so much to say!”
“Really, what did you write Ari?” I questioned.
“I wrote that I love my parents and my brothers and sisters and my house and my clothes and my toys and my backyard and my grandparents and Shabbos and going to the playground and my friends and Purim and …,” he continued on and on. I was so struck by his words. Ari is a normal child who asks for new toys and other expensive items from time to time, but when he revealed what was good to him, what really mattered most were the aspects of his life that money could not buy. I would often daydream about all the luxuries my children were missing -- things I took for granted in my own childhood. When my son shared with me his sweet innocent joys, I realized that true happiness comes from taking stock of what I have, and acknowledging that I cannot buy what is most important at any price. Appreciating G-d’s (HaShem’s) handiwork allows me to trust that He knows what is best, even when it’s not always what I had in mind. Ari inadvertently showed me that to focus on the material possessions of others only serves to dampen my spirit and reject the unique circumstances of my life that HaShem has chosen just for me.
Is there a certain type of person that most people envy?
How do people lose out by having feelings of jealousy?
How would a person gain if he/she were to feel pleasure upon learning of the good fortune of others?
Stretch of the Week:
Think of someone you have felt jealous of in the past and work on feeling pleasure in his/her good fortune or accomplishments.