May 30, 2024
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May 30, 2024
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Yom Kippur is a great time to work on our middos, and one middah that we all have to work on is the middah of jealousy. Sure, there are gedolim that work on their jealousy all the time, but honestly, I wish I had the capabilities they do.

Sure, you personally might not get jealous in the sense of wishing you had physical items that other people have. You don’t want your neighbor’s house. Do you know what he pays in real estate taxes? And where are you going to keep your neighbor’s ox or donkey?

But most people are jealous way more often than you’d think: We’re jealous that other people can eat whatever they want and not gain weight. That we know of. It’s not like we sneak up behind them and attempt to lift them, at least not after that one time. We’re jealous of anyone who can dance awesomely in the middle of the wedding circle, because when we dance, we look like the steering wheel to our body is being fought over by four very angry people with conflicting ideas over where we should go. We’re jealous of anyone who’s still in bed when we have to get up in the morning. That’s not right. They should get up too. So we’re going to close as many cabinets as we can as loudly as we want, and—“Oh, sorry, did I wake you up? I’m making breakfast. Can I get you anything from the cabinets?”

So you definitely need to work on your jealousy. It’s not easy, because a lot of the advice people give doesn’t impress you. For example, people say that money doesn’t buy happiness.

Well, neither does being broke.

“No,” they say. “I mean the jealousy never ends. If you have $100, you want $200. If you have $200, you want $400.”

But that really applies to everything. If you have 4 kids, you want 8. If you have 8 kids, you want 16. If you have 16… Okay, so it doesn’t apply to everything.

But here’s an idea: Maybe instead of looking critically at the things you have, look critically at the things you don’t have.

For example, in Parshas Vayishlach, we have a key difference between Yaakov and Eisav, where Yaakov says, “I have everything I need.” Yaakov doesn’t say, “Yeah, well, I don’t have 400 men. That would have come in handy.” Because you have to think through it: What are you going to do with 400 men? Sure, they’re useful when you’re going to war against your brother and his 11 little boys, but then what? You have to feed them and clothe them and half of them are gonna want dental… And where are they going to live? Do you want these guys around your kids? Plus, if you have 400, you’re just going to want 800.

Or let’s say you’re jealous that your neighbor has a yacht. So ask yourself: Do I want a yacht because it looks like it will be fun the three times a year that I’m going to use it? Or do I want a yacht because I want the responsibilities of dock fees and storage and maintenance and equipment and fuel? How do you even bring a yacht to the gas station?

On the other hand, if you think bad things about whatever someone has that you don’t have, you’re going to start feeling bad for him.

“I got a new boat!”

“Oh, I’m so sorry… We don’t know why the Ribbono shel Olam does what he does.”

Because that’s the other thing: We’re only ever seeing part of the picture. We’re comparing the best part of someone else’s life to the worst part of ours. But we all have strengths. Like sure, the other guy has money, but does he know how to cut his own hair? Probably not.

The gifts that Hashem gives each person are a package deal. Tall people can reach things, and short people don’t bump their heads every time they go down to the basement. Also, no one calls tall people cute, even if they say something cute. Everyone has their gifts, and everyone is secretly jealous of each other, because, like the saying goes, “The grass is always greener on the other side.”

Well, maybe the grass just looks greener when you look at it from afar. And you can’t see the bald spots.

It’s kind of like how kids are jealous of adults because we can eat whatever we want and drive wherever we want and go to bed whenever we want. But when you’re an adult, you realize that yes, I can do what I want, but what I want these days is to get my responsibilities done. I mostly just drive to work. But yeah, I can eat what I want! Except on fast days, and when I’m trying to lose weight, and whenever the kids are around.

But kids love being jealous. I can’t tell you how many hours as a parent I’ve spent making sure everyone’s soda is up to the same line on their cups. And if it isn’t, I have to make up a reason on the fly on no sleep. Because I go to bed when I want, right?

Point is, everyone is jealous of each other, but we don’t discuss it, so we don’t realize that everyone’s jealous of each other. If we realized that, we’d see that no one actually has everything, and then no one would be jealous.

Did that make sense? I’m very tired. I go to bed when I want.

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He also has six books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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