Read a piece on the Chassidus titled “Let’s Start Celebrating” written by Rabbi Sholom Schapiro, the Shliach of the NY Torah Center on 5th Avenue in Manhattan.
I am happy with my lot, and content with what I have. Still, I cannot help but feel a twinge of jealousy when I see others who seem to have it all. When I see a beautiful house or car, I wish it were mine. I don’t act upon this urge, but I feel guilty for harboring jealous feelings. Is it possible to rid myself of this instinct?
In this week’s Torah portion, we read the story of Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and the Ten Commandments. The final commandment is the prohibition against coveting. In the words of the Torah “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, or whatever belongs to your neighbor.”
The Rabbis have taught that one who fulfills this commandment is considered to have fulfilled the entire Torah. How is refraining from coveting equal to following all of the precepts of the Torah? Moreover, how can one refrain from coveting? How is one supposed to be in complete control of that which his heart desires?
The Ibn Ezra, a medieval commentary on the Torah, explained the matter as follows. One does not covet that which is impossible to acquire. The peasant does not pine for the daughter of the king, and man is not envious of the bird that flies. In the mind of the peasant, the princess belongs to another world; in the heart of man, he knows that he cannot ever hope to fly. One is only envious of that which is in his proximity. Thus, the command here is to change the way we view the possessions of others. It is incumbent to view our neighbors possessions as being impossibly distant, and then, the desire to acquire these possessions will subside.
Why should we view the possessions of others to be impossibly distant from us? The tenth commandment naturally flows from the first commandment, to believe in One G-d. When one believes in G-d, who created the world and everything within it, it follows that He also gives each individual exactly what he or she needs. This object belongs to me because G-d deemed it mine, while other objects were granted to other people. It is not a random chance that brought me my lot, rather, G-d deliberately has chosen to give me whatever I need.
This adds meaning to the statement of our sages: “Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot.” This does not mean that one should make peace with his lot, and try to be happy with little. On the contrary, true happiness comes when one acknowledges that G-d has given whatever is necessary, there is no need for anything else that belongs to anyone else. I can try to better my lot, and if G-d desires, my efforts will bear fruit.
This is also the meaning of the statement of our sages: “Jealousy and desire drive a man from the world.” The desire for the possessions of others is insatiable, and one who constantly covets the possessions of others will never find peace. His state of being is driven by envy, to the extent that he cannot enjoy what he does possess. One who covets drives himself from the world, for he is never satisfied with what he has. Even more, he never appreciates what he wins from others, even when he has them in his hand, for essentially, they do not belong to him. They may be in his possession, yet they are never truly his.
This is the reason why one who masters his urge to covet is comparable to one who fulfills the entire Torah. The basis of the Torah is belief in One G-d. One who does not have the urge to covet has demonstrated that his belief has permeated his very core, he has internalized the notion that G-d is in charge, he has internalized the trust that the world is in perfect order, operating in line with the master plan of existence. He is truly content, for he knows that he has been given whatever he may need. Once one feels this reality, the urge to covet disappears.
This also sheds light on the statement of Maimonides, who stated that in the messianic era, envy and jealousy will cease, and the knowledge of G-d will cover the earth as the sea covers the seabed. When there is knowledge of G-d, envy naturally dissipates, for it becomes apparent that G-d has given each individual exactly what he or she needs.
Dedicated to Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson whose Yahrzeit is on 22 Shvat.
Rabbi Sholom Schapiro
KOLLEL TORAH CENTER
393 Fifth Avenue, Ground Floor
New York, NY 10016
“Let’s welcome Moshiach with acts of goodness and kindness”
– The Rebbe