13 - Don't Covet part 1

The prohibition of lo sachmod consists of two parts, and according to many authorities, two distinct mitzvos.

We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chusim for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.


Last week’s stretch of the week was: Be sure to give a bracha to someone you have mistakenly blamed. (This includes children!)

Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.

Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #13

לא תחמד - LO SACHMOD Don’t Covet

 PART 1 – What is coveting?


The prohibition of lo sachmod consists of two parts, and according to many authorities, two distinct mitzvos. The first step is ta’avah, desire. We see a nice item that belongs to someone else--an item the person has no intention of selling--and are attracted to it. If in our desire to acquire it we begin to think of strategies by which we might get it from the other fellow, then we have violated the issur of lo tisaveh, do not desire.

Notice that no action has been taken and not a word has been said. The violation lies in the scheming thoughts running through our minds. On the other hand, the prohibition does not begin until we have started making plans to acquire the item. Simply admiring the item does not constitute an issur.

The second step is chemda, coveting. Once the desire and strategies one has come up with take the form of an action, the act becomes a violation of lo sachmod, do not covet. We are not talking here about forcefully taking something that is not ours--that would be stealing. Rather, we refer to exerting unusual pressure to force someone to sell or give us something he does not want to part with. Asking once or twice is not considered exerting undue pressure, but, pushing him against the wall repeatedly would fall into that category. 

If he finally gives in and sells us the item, even if we pay him the full price for it, the moment we take it, we are violating the issur of lo sachmod and are in fact violating two issurim at one time. In most cases, the sale that is made under pressure is valid, and halachah does not require that the item be returned. Nevertheless, the buyer is guilty of lo tis’aveh and lo sachmod, and he may even be disqualified from giving testimony in bais din because of his covetous nature.

(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)

Story:  (based on a true story) 

It was visiting day again, and we had finally reached camp. After hours of sitting in traffic listening to the little kids fight over who got which color lollipop, we finally parked the car. The kids jumped out and quickly located their sister Chaya, engulfing her in sticky hugs. We all walked her back to her bunk house, where I deposited the obligatory nosh bags on her bottom bunk in the middle of a long row.

“So this is your bed?” I asked Chaya. “I thought you wanted a top bunk this year.”

“Yeah, I did. But by the time my bus got in and I found my duffle bags, there was only one top bunk left. My friend Suri really wanted it, so I gave it to her. No big deal.”

“But you don’t sleep well on the bottom bunk,” I reminded her. “When girls are talking, it’s louder there and you can hear the girl above you when she turns-”

“Ma,” she stops me, in a quiet voice. “Suri gets claustrophobic.”

Huh. Couldn’t get around that one. “Maybe one of the other girls would switch.”

“I asked once, Ma, and nobody wanted to. I’m dealing, and I’m happy. I can deal, you know,” she replied in her teenage-mature voice.

“I know you can deal, but you know that you need your sleep. You could try to convince one of them to change now that it’s half-way through. Then you’d both get the chance to get what you want. You could even do the cleanup chore she likes least for her, as an incentive.” Silence. “Or maybe you could move to a bottom bunk on the end of the row.”

“Nobody wants to, Ma. It would be nice, but I’m fine,” replied Chaya, her patience thinning.

“See, I knew you wanted it. There’s no reason the other girls should have what they want and not you. Maybe you need it more than they do. If you work hard, you’ll eventually convince them.”

A slight cough interrupted us, and I turned to see my husband looking at me pointedly. I let the topic go.

Several hours, a trip to Walmart, and another round of hugs later, we were back in the car, waiting for all of the other cars on the highway to move. The kids in the back had fallen asleep, and I heard my husband take a deep breath and let it out slowly. That meant he was gathering his thoughts and patience. I waited.

“So Chaya’s growing up, isn’t she? She’s doing nicely in her bunk.”

That was it? “Yeah, she is,” I answered. “No more lolli-pop fights for her, huh?”

He took another deep breath. Here we go.

“I was a little concerned about the whole discussion with her bed”, he said carefully. “She seemed OK with it, and you-“

“Were not,” I agreed. “It’s so hard. I want the best for her, and I know what works for her.”

“Yes,” he said, “but you may have been encouraging her to want what other girls had. And you may have been trying to help her get it.”

I most certainly was. And sitting in my car in the dark in the middle of a stopped highway, I realized that the objects I thought Chaya needed were much less important than the middos she definitely needed. Shouldn’t I just have been grateful we could send her to camp? And even worse, I had been encouraging her to want what others happily had.

How often did I do this? How often did I encourage the kids to do this? Doesn’t HaShem give us what we need? “You get what you get and you don’t get upset,” I reminded myself. So easy to say, yet, so hard to do.

Right there, I made a plan. Now, when I realize that I want something that belongs to someone else, whether it’s the last parve chocolate ice cream on the shelf or a carpool slot that belongs to another driver, I try to slow myself down before I make any plans to get it. I close my eyes, and picture my daughter, happy in camp. And I remember that I can do without.

Discussion Question Options: 

What types of situations prompt jealous feelings to be severe enough that we make plans based on them?

How do you feel when you want something you cannot get?

How can we realistically stop jealous feelings?

Stretch of the Week: 

Replace a jealous thought with one of gratitude to Hashem for something you have.


Stretch Of The Week