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: Replace a jealous thought with one of gratitude for something you have.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #14
לא תחמד LO SACHMOD Don’t Covet
PART 2 – What is included in the issur of lo sachmod?
According to the Minchas Chinuch, the prohibition of lo sachmod applies even to an item that is worth less than a peruta, a coin of low monetary value which might not count toward other prohibitions.
In the Aseres Hadibros in Devarim, the pasuk states, “Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, and do not desire your neighbor’s house, not his field, servant, maidservant, ox, donkey or anything that is his” (Devarim 5:18). Included are all kinds of real estate, household objects and personal items.
It is also prohibited to covet someone’s job or position of power, as we see in the case of Korach, who desired Moshe’s leadership position. It is permissible, however, to persuade a professional to teach you his trade. In terms of real estate, a common case of lo tisaveh and lo sachmod arises when a person wishes to buy from a neighbor’s land or a storeroom or garage that abuts his home or property, in order to expand his home. Even if there is little for the neighbor to lose in this transaction and if the buyer is willing to pay a high price for the purchase, he still cannot exert more-than-average pressure if the neighbor has no interest in the deal.
Once an item is for sale, we are allowed to desire it and take measures to acquire it. In addition, the halacha permits us to use all our persuasive efforts to bargain down the price, since that is considered normal negotiations.
If we are uncertain about whether someone is willing to sell an item we have our eye on, there is nothing wrong with simply asking the owner once or twice if he would agree to sell. The exception would be when the relationship is such that even if we only asked him once, the owner would feel obliged to agree. Common examples are a boss asking his employee, a rav asking his congregant, and a parent asking his child.
(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
Story: (based on a true story)
On a clear April afternoon, I watch the boys on the block run around their front yards. They shout to each other and throw footballs and frisbees back and forth, avoiding whoever is coming down the sidewalk on a scooter or bike. Through my window, I see them smile and laugh.
My nine-year-old son Sholom sits next to me at the dining room table, hunched over his math homework. He’s been working for half an hour on a page that would take his younger sister five minutes. Every so often I hear a grumble of frustration, and I reach over to fix his grip on the pencil so he can write more comfortably and the teacher will actually be able to read it.
“I hate math!” he suddenly exclaims, throwing his pencil down on the table.
“You hate everything!” answers his sister from the next room.
Sholom needs to go outside. It’s so gorgeous out. But the hour between 4:30 and 5:30 is the only time he can get his homework done, because after that his concentration seems to shut off completely as his medication begins to fade. I put my seven-year old daughter in charge of entertaining her younger siblings, a job she can do safely and well in the playroom next to us, and Sholom and I sit and work. I remind Sholom of the computer time he earns as he works, and he gets back to the math, allowing me to look back out the window in front of me. I want to be out there. I want to be one of those relaxed mothers sitting on the front steps with the neighbors, watching the kids play, and I want him to be able to laugh with his friends in the sunshine. I want to go one weekday afternoon without having to reassure him that he can write all the way to the end of his chumash worksheet without his hand falling off. Why does he have to be limited like this?
I want my kid to be more like my neighbors’ kids. Why can’t I have the freedom I see every day when I look out the window? Just give me a regular kid for a week or so. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I am so jealous of mother’s of regular kids.
Later in the evening, I call a friend with a severely disabled child. When I first met her, I would look at her son and then look at mine and be grateful that Sholom can speak and kick a ball. But with familiarity, the gratitude faded and I went back to my jealousy of all the normal people around me whose kids’ homework doesn’t rule their lives. And I hate being jealous. It may not halachicly be lo sachmod-there’s no object involved-but it’s the same idea. I’m not supposed to want to be like someone else instead of focusing on what I’ve got. So I kvetch to her about why I’m jealous, and then about how I wish I wasn’t jealous. She listens and then speaks from her own experience.
“You know how my Dovid can barely talk, right? I’m not going to say I never wish he could. It would certainly make my life easier, and we have a lot of therapists trying to help him with that. But you know what I realized? He’s never said a word of loshon hara. Eleven years old, and not a word of loshon hara. How many of us can say that?”
I have nothing to say. She’s right. I sometimes try to talk myself out of being upset about what I don’t have by remembering the good things I do have. But my friend went a step above. She found the good in the lack. There is something about her child and what makes him unique that she wouldn’t trade for anything. It makes it easier for her to accept the hand HaShem has dealt her because there’s a part she is happy about.
I decide to try it the next day sitting once again in my dining room while Sholom trudges through his reading assignment. I correct him on a spelling error, and the next time he reaches that word I remind him again and he corrects it again. Instead of looking longingly out the window in frustration, I tell him, “Wow! You’re such a hard worker. You know something? A lot of kids your age don’t realize that sometimes you have to work at something for a long time, sometimes trying lots of different ways, but eventually you will get it. It takes most kids awhile to learn this, and they may quit things when they don’t get it early on. But you know that what Chazal say is true: yagata u’matzata ta’amin, if you work, it will come. You’re ahead of the game.”
He gives me an exasperated look and says, “Thanks for the speech, Ima.” But he goes back to work with his hand less clenched and a small smile on one side of his face. I too smile inwardly because now we both see something we wouldn’t trade for anything, no matter how attractive it looks.
Discussion Question Options:
Why do you think the pasuk that contains the issur lists many example of what you may not covet, in addition to concluding with, “Or anything that is his?”
What makes a person desire something different for themselves or their household, instead of working with what they have?
How are our perspectives affected when we spend a lot of time focusing on what other people have?
Stretch of the Week:
Find the good in one difficult thing in your life, and keep it in your mind as you deal with that challenge.