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.