The story is told of a person who came to a rav to ask him
what to do with a large quantity of very expensive liquor that he had forgotten
to sell before Pesach. They rav told him that the liquor was forbidden and that
he would have to spill it all out. The man accepted the ruling cheerfully, in
spite of the considerable loss involved.
Two weeks later, the rav ruled against this same man in a
dispute over a relatively small sum of money. This time the reaction was
entirely different. He got angry, began cursing and demanding a re-trial. The
rav turned to him and asked: “I don’t understand. Two weeks ago, I ruled that
you had to take a loss of hundreds of dollars, and you went out with a smile, no
problem. Why are you making such a fuss now over a mere ten dollars?”
“Two weeks ago,” he replied, “I lost a few hundred
dollars. Today, this guy gained ten dollars! That’s what I can’t take.”
The Sde Chemed is a massive, ten-volume work of
encyclopedic scope. It is hard to believe that any human being could know so
much. But because of his great genius he became the object of jealousy. In fact,
one person was so jealous of the Sde Chemed that he wanted to destroy
him. He bribed a non-Jewish woman to spread the word that the Sde Chemed
had had an immoral relationship with her. As a result, there was a move to expel
him from the yeshiva. However, the rosh yeshiva, who knew that he was a
tzadik, refused to believe the accusation.
In the meantime, the woman lost the money and fell ill. Being
a religious person, she realized that G-d was trying to tell her something. She
came to the conclusion that her false accusations had brought her troubles upon
her. So she went and confessed the truth to the Sde Chemed and begged his
forgiveness. After considering the matter, he told her that he would forgive her
on one condition: that she not divulge the truth to anyone. Why did he not want
to be exonerated publicly? Because as it stood, people suspected that he had
acted immorally. But if word would get out that one bochur was so jealous
of another that he actually bribed someone to destroy his reputation, the
chilul HaShem would be even greater. That was something he did not want on
“Jealousy is a rotting of the bones.” When you’re jealous of
someone, you can’t forgive them for having something good. Even when it’s
something you don’t want or need, but it just eats you alive. That is the simple
meaning. But there’s another idea. The Gemora says that someone who is
jealous not only doesn’t get what he wants, he loses what he has, as well. It’s
not a punishment; it’s just the natural outcome of the situation.
Rav Wolbe explains: Why is a person jealous? Because you
don’t appreciate what you yourself have. If you don’t value what you are, you
want to be somebody else. But you can never become somebody else. So you are
never going to get what you want. And, by focusing on what the other person has,
it keeps you from appreciating what you have. In that sense, you lose that too.
That’s the meaning of “rotting of the bones.” The word etzem, bone, also
means essence. The desire for what others have, to be like them, is a rotting of
the person’s essence, his own identity, his own value.
The harm that jealousy causes is not only to oneself.
Jealousy can actually harm others. That’s the ayin hora. When someone in
this world begrudges what another has; feels that he doesn’t deserve it, it is
called into question in the Heavenly Court. Especially, if he’s been flaunting
his possessions, in shamayim they ask, “Is this person really deserving
of what he has?” It is also possible that he deserves to have what he has, but
not at the cost of another person’s feeling the pain of jealousy. And so it
could be taken away from him.
How does one control these feelings that are so destructive,
both to oneself and to others?
The more people look into the business of others, what they
are doing, what they have, the more susceptible they are to jealous feelings.
The less you concern yourself with what others have, the less likely you are to
People tend to exaggerate what others have and minimize their
own possessions. A person should rather do the opposite: consider that what he
has is more than it is, and minimize what others have.
Finally, a person has a responsibility not to arouse jealousy
in others. Don’t flaunt what you have. Don’t brag about it and push it in their
eyes. The more you talk about what you have or what you did, the more you are
likely to make people jealous.