M'lochim I, 3:15
by Rabbi Dovid Siegel
This week's haftorah reveals to us the extent one can be driven whenplagued with jealousy. The haftorah relates the first court decision thewise Shlomo Hamelech rendered after assuming the mantle of leadership. Ittells of two women who shared an apartment and had both given birth at thesame time. Unfortunately, misfortune struck one of them and her child diedin his sleep. One of the women claimed that her child was actuallykidnapped by the other woman and replaced by the woman's dead child and theother totally denied the accusation. Shlomo Hamelech immediately orderedfor a sword to be brought and that the live child be divided equallyamongst the two women. The true mother cried out and pleaded with the kingthat the child be spared and given to the other mother. But the lattercalmly accepted the judgement and agreed to the slicing of the child.Shlomo immediately ruled that the woman who frantically expressed hercompassion was the child's true mother.
This incident exposes the true ugly character of jealousy and demonstrateshow corrupt it can be. It is most amazing to think that Shlomo Hamelechwould actually rely upon this scheme and be confident that the truth wouldresult from it. One could question, "After all, even if it were not herchild, where is human compassion?" In addition, wouldn't one expect theimposter to act out her role to perfection? Obviously, no true motherwould ever permit her own child to be sliced in front of her very own eyes.Didn't the kidnapper realize that she was revealing her true identitythrough this absolutely inexcusable behavior?
We must conclude from this that we totally underestimate the savage feelingof jealousy. Firstly, our understanding of this horrible drive is that onemerely wants something belonging to another. In truth it is much greaterthan that and is rooted in an inner need for absolute equality withanother. A jealous person can not tolerate the fact that someone else hasmore than him and is compelled, at all costs, to be on par with that otherperson. In his mind it doesn't really matter whether they both possessthe article or neither, what really counts is that they are equal! TheMalbim highlights this thought through the analysis of the exact wordingin each woman's claim. The Scriptures state, "One woman said, 'No, my sonis the live one and yours is dead' and the other said, 'No, your son isdead and mine is alive.'" (M'lochim I, 3:22) The Malbim notes the differentpriorities in the two women's statements. The first woman prioritized thelive being of her son and the other prioritized the death of her friend'sson. This subtlety revealed the true intention of the imposter. Whatdisturbed her was that the live child belonged to someone else while herown child had died. What she couldn't tolerate was the fact that herfriend would enjoy her own child and she could not. Therefore it didn'treally matter whether she would receive the live child or not; as long ashe wouldn't be given to her friend she would be content. Shlomo Hamelechlistened carefully to her words and discovered her true focus and concern.He therefore put her through this test and anticipated with confidence thather true motivation and interest would surface. And so it was. In effectshe was caught off guard and without even contemplating the consequences ofher statement she told it how it was. Once she heard the soothing words ofequality, "Both or neither" she was perfectly content and, withoutthinking, agreed to Shlomo Hamelech's horrifying verdict.
The upshot of this is that jealousy means one's inability to acceptthat fact that one can possess that which he doesn't. Although ittranslates into a "sincere" interest in obtaining that very same articlethis interest is actually rooted in a base desire for absolute equality.This hidden reality exposes itself when one finds himself mysteriouslycalmed after his friend has unfortunately lost the coveted article.Suddenly the drive is gone and one no longer seems to need the article hisfriend once possessed. The imposter in today's haftorah lived with thisreal feeling of jealousy and saw things in their true perspective. Whenpresented with a "fair" solution to her problem, she forgot to translateher jealousy into a positive interest, the well being of the baby, andleft it as a savage need for equality. Shlomo Hamelech made contact withher true inner drive and when she was caught off guard she fell right intothe trap.
This fundamental understanding of jealousy opens our eyes to the painfulnational experience of Yosef and the Ten Tribes. In Parshas Vayeishev theTorah reveals the underlying cause for the sale of Yosef. "And thebrothers were jealous of Him." (Breishis 37:11) Yosef was the privilegedcharacter in the household of Yaakov rapidly establishing superiority andthe brothers resented this. They actually felt physically threatened byYosef's rise to power and sought ample protection from him. Although theyfelt justified in what they had done (see comments of Sforno to verse37:18) they did not realize that, in truth, they were being driven totheir conclusion by base jealousy. However, jealousy should motivate oneto attempt to obtain the same item, or in this case to rise to a similarposition of power. Yet, we discover that their response to this jealousywas quite the contrary. Instead of attempting to perfect themselves and bedeemed worthy of a similar status to that of Yosef, the brothers werecompelled to remove Yosef from the scene. Was this jealousy or basicbeast-like hatred?
In light of this week's haftorah we gain a glimpse into the brother'sbehavior. As proven above, jealousy means a non-compromising stand forabsolute equality without tolerating anyone to possess that which I don'thave. It really doesn't matter if I achieve an equal status or if he isdemoted from his superior position, all that counts is that we're equal andhe's not ahead. The brothers, although not realizing it, could nottolerate their younger brother as a superior over them. There wastherefore no drive for the position of superiority because their truedesire wasn't status but rather equality, that no one should be ahead ofthem. This unfortunately slanted their perception about Yosef andultimately justified them in their position of removing him from hissuperiority over them. The results of this ugly trait were devastating tothe morale of the Jewish people and could not be rectified until themartyrdom of the righteous ten holy martyrs during and after the era of theSecond Temple. May we merit the speedy arrival of Mashiach and the daywhen this and all other character flaws will be removed from the world,forever.
Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Dovid Siegel and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rosh Kollel of Kollel Toras Chaim of
Kiryat Sefer, Israel.