Parsha: Yitro (2024)

*The best way to learn is by asking questions. We have begun a new initiative, to encourage people to ask questions on the Parsha and then endeavour to answer them during the Torah reading. If you have a question that you would like to be addressed feel to bring it to my attention.*

Jealousy. It’s the last of the Ten commandments. And perhaps the most difficult of them all. How can we deal with jealousy? It seems to just be an automatic reaction. How can you tell someone, “Don’t be Jealous?”

If you have a look at the wording itself around the Jealousy prohibition, we can gain some insight.

The last of the ten commandments reads as follows:
“You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, or whatever belongs to your neighbour.”

Why the exhaustive list? Why does it need to mention all these different items that one can be jealous of? It would be simpler and more straight forward to just say, “Don’t be Jealous!”

Here is where we can find a clue and insight how to combat feelings of envy.

Many times, people can become jealous by comparing themselves to others. Once we start with the comparing, it becomes an open pit for those feelings of jealousy to set in.
This is because we isolate one item that we are fixated on, and don’t take in to account the whole picture.

For example, if we become jealous of someone possessions, and think “gee, I wish I can just have what they have.” We often tend to isolate that one item that this person has. We can forget to look at the bigger picture. This person doesn’t just have a nice car, there may be other things in their life that we don’t ever wish for.

This is why the Torah mentions, not just one item, but gives us a list of many items. Reminding us to look at the bigger picture of what we have already. In addition, it encourages us to reflect that what others have is not necessarily what we really need or want.

There is a parable given to bring out this point. Once there was a village full of people that were unhappy about their lot in life. Every day they just complained and felt jealous about their neighbour’s better life.

So an angel came and said, “Okay, today is your lucky day. Everyone should write down their lot in life on this piece of paper. The good and fortunate parts of your life and the not so good parts. Everyone will put their note in the middle of the room. Afterwards each of you can choose someone else’s paper and lot in life and begin life anew.

They followed the instructions carefully, and with excitement they each looked at all the different papers describing the lives of all the people of the village. What happened at the end was fascinating. Even though each villager looked and examined each paper, the paper and life they truly wanted was their very own. Notwithstanding all the difficulties and complaints they had, they realised their own life was really the very best one for them.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Zalman and Esty