The Jealous Soul Can Find Peace
By Rabbi Label Lam
Moshe said to Korach, "Please listen, sons of Levi, Is it not enough that
the G-d of Israel has distinguished you from the congregation of Israel to
draw you near to Him, to perform the service in the Mishkan of HASHEM and to
stand before the congregation to minister to them? He drew you near, and all
your brothers, the sons of Levi with you, and now you seek the Kehunah as
well? (Bamidbar 16:8-10)
It’s a big wonder. Korach was a very smart man. He had so much and he put it
all in peril, for what? The Midrash says that when someone reaches for
something that is not his, he stands to lose what he has. Perhaps that’s
what Moshe was telling by mentioning his already exalted status. However,
once one is bitten by the bug of jealousy, tragically judgment is impaired
and bad decisions become reasons for making worse choices. It’s a form of
drunkenness or insanity, like the Talmud tells us, that a person does not
sin unless a spirit of foolishness enters him. Jealousy induces irrational
thought and action.
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, in the Mesilas Yesharim, writes, “Envy, too, is
nothing but a lack of reason and foolishness, for the one who envies gains
nothing for himself and deprives the one he envies of nothing. He only loses
thereby…There are those who are so foolish that if they perceive their
neighbor to possess a certain good, they brood and worry and suffer to the
point that their neighbor's good prevents them from enjoying their own…”
This is not mere conjecture. It can all be tested and proven logically. I
did it this week in classes of varying ages. I administered a sure fire test
for jealousy. I asked one student at first, “Would rather I give you one
chocolate bar and your brother one chocolate bar or that I give you two and
your brother three? You cannot imagine what percent admitted that they would
rather accept one chocolate than two. To prove the irrational nature of the
jealous factor and the perverse role it plays in their decision making
process, I asked a different question, “Who amongst you would rather have
two chocolates than one?” That was easy. Everybody wants two chocolates. So
they can agree that two is more better than one.
Why then would someone pick one chocolate when he could have two? The answer
is that not all choices we make are a based on pleasure. There is cost
benefit analysis that weighs the risks and reward- the pleasures and the
pain involved before we give ourselves permission to do anything. Here there
is a perceived pain here, but as the Mesilas Yesharim states, it is based
upon a gross misconception. The jealous personality is pained by the extra
whatever that the competitor processes.
A child is willing to forfeit the joy of a whole chocolate bar, just so as
not to feel the sting associated with knowing that their brother has one
more. He is willing to deny himself just to spite his brother. Under normal
circumstance the feelings simmer and only he loses the enjoyment of his own
lot in life. Because the other guy pulls into the dock with a 125 foot yacht
his 100 foot sea beauty suddenly feels worthless. It makes no sense in the
world of pure reason.
It seems that the only way to disengage the jealousy factor and quiet the
raging mind, is to challenge the premise that what someone else possesses
has any relevance to what you have. Then one can come to the sober
realization that we are not in competition with anyone but our own
potential. HASHEM is the one who granted Moshe that position, that stature.
Why should it challenge Korach’s noble role?!
The same applies in every case of jealousy. HASHEM deals out certain cards
in life to certain people for whatever reason. Our struggle is not with
other people. The One who holds the whole deck in His hands has infinite
cards to deal. Striving to come closer to the real source of chocolate is
where the jealous soul can find peace.
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.