Based on shiurim of Rav Dovid Siegel
A Middos Workshop: Waging War on Jealousy
The setting: a lovely day in the neighborhood park. Two young
women who share a comfortable relationship meet, settle down
onto a bench and begin chatting. They discuss the ins and
outs of young married life and enjoy the pleasant spring
afternoon. The conversation naturally drifts.
Sara: Did you hear about Rochel? You must have heard by
Leah: No, I don't think so. What's there to hear?
Sara: You didn't hear that she won the lottery? It's just
amazing, she won millions! Isn't it wonderful?
Leah (whose former natural smile is replaced by a frozen
one): Really? Are you sure? Yes . . . that's . . . just . . .
What happened? Where is that pleasant spring afternoon? What
has become of Leah's relaxed mood?
The green-eyed monster has struck again!
Jealousy, says Orchos Tzaddikim, is a branch of anger. And it
is a midda that no one is completely free from. Shlomo
Hamelech spoke about it in Koheles and said, "I saw
all effort and all planning is but jealousy of one
Apparently, there is a natural tendency to compare what I
have to that of others and to question why I lack things. Yet
although jealousy is very common, it is a midda that
can be overcome. But, how? Here is where we start.
The famous pious Reb Zusha of Anapola was once presented with
a pertinent question. Imagine that you were given the
opportunity to run the world for twenty-four hours. You have
every tool, every experience and opportunity available to you
to manipulate as you wish. What would you do?
Think for a minute. What would you do? How would you change
things? (Bear in mind that Reb Zusha was poverty-stricken and
suffered from numerous other problems.)
Reb Zusha answered, "I would conduct the world exactly as it
Reb Zusha explained: Are we better than Hashem? Do we have
more insight than He? Are we more concerned about revealing
His Glory than He is? Obviously not. So then we must admit
that we too would want the world to be run exactly as it
Basically, kinah stems from a lack of bitochon.
We feel that we trust in Hashem -- but do we really?
We forget that Hashem cares about us more than we care about
ourselves. We do not always feel that Hashem always is doing
what is best for us. If we could implant these ideas into our
hearts, we would never feel jealous. If we really thought
into it, we would realize that we have exactly what Hashem
knows is good for us.
"Good" is an elusive concept. Sometimes, life does not seem
as good as we wish it would be. For example, we dream that
life would be much better if our enemies would leave us
alone. However, if Hashem wanted them destroyed, He would
certainly do it! For whatever reason, we need this punishment
and set-up. So, it must actually be good for us, even when it
is quite difficult to understand.
Let's look back at our friends, Sara and Leah. What went
Jealousy has three steps. First, Leah feels that she wants
what Rochel has. Second, she wonders why Rochel should have
it. Finally, she thinks to herself, "It's not fair! She has
it, and I don't!" Essentially, she is questioning Hashem's
sense of fairness.
What, then, is fair?
Commonly, we feel that fairness is when everyone has the same
possessions, equal portions, etc. But why should we have the
same? The world's structure does not call for what we
consider fair. She is she, and I am I. We are not the same,
so we do not deserve the same.
Every person has an individual neshomoh, with its
unique mission. Hashem gave each one of us a specific nature,
with a unique corresponding combination of middos.
Each neshomoh has the task of bringing kovod
to Hashem, but no two people are expected to fulfill
their mission in the same way. In fact, every person is given
the talents, possessions, and circumstances that match
his/her neshomoh's purpose in life.
Wealth is a typical area about which people feel jealousy.
One often thinks: if I had all that money, I could do so much
good with it. Did we ever consider that maybe this is not
We may be able to tolerate only a certain level of wealth
before it goes to our head. Beyond that point we could
develop an imbalance in our character. The fact that wealth
is not part of my life may be part of my life's mission.
Remember that anything which will not serve a purpose could,
in fact, harm us.
To paraphrase the Chofetz Chaim's parable, if we beg Hashem
to give us that which we covet of others, we may turn to the
spiritual Doctor at the end of life and say, "Hashem, why did
you give it to me when I asked for it?"
Rebbetzin Sternbuch, who lived part of her life in poverty
and the other in wealth, advised her grandchildren that if
they are forced to choose between poverty and wealth, they
should choose poverty. She explained that wealth is not an
Someone may question why his life seems so much more
challenging than that of his neighbor. It may seem unfair to
him that the neighbor has a larger, more luxurious home. In
order to explain this discrepancy, he could consider that
Hashem has blessed him with a more sturdy character, while
his friend may be more sensitive to heat or less tolerant of
noise and clutter. A roomy, air- conditioned, six-bedroom
house may be a necessity for his friend, but not for him. And
if the neighbor were to live in his lifestyle, he might be in
danger of a mental breakdown.
Hashem knows each person's makeup and mission, and His sense
of fairness far surpasses ours. I receive what I need, and
she receives what she needs. That is fair, isn't it?
Many of our feelings of jealousy stem from a feeling of
entitlement, a sense that we deserve more. This reflects our
lack of contentment. We may actually feel content, but our
complacency suddenly vanishes when we see our friend having
more than we. We suddenly have a void and have thereby
created our own discontent.
HaRav Moshe Shapiro once explained that the sinful act of
eating from the Eitz Hadaas was rooted in possession.
The yetzer hora cloaked himself in the desire that
everything in this world should become part of the person.
Odom was forbidden to eat from only one tree. He had a whole,
luscious garden to choose from, but he felt compelled to eat
from that forbidden tree. It had to become his!
The root of kinah is the feeling that "I must have
it." But there is a tremendous error in this way of thinking,
namely the belief that "I deserve it." We tend to feel that
we are entitled to "100%," and that if we have less, we were
shortchanged. But actually, we are entitled to "0"!
True, Hashem gives us life. He provides us with food,
clothing and shelter. But anything beyond that point is sheer
bonus. If we compare what we have to point zero, i.e. life's
bare necessities, we will realize how much we truly have.
Let us consider some of the bonuses Hashem grants us. Look at
the shiny tiled or stone floors. Are those a necessity?
Wouldn't a dirt floor do the trick? In fact, for thousands of
years, most people got by with dirt floors! What a brochoh
to have such smooth, clean flooring.
And what about cushioned chairs and orthopedic mattresses?
Are they really necessities? What can we say about the myriad
of foods available at the grocery now? Most people lived
without all these luxuries throughout the ages. Yet to us
they seem to be absolute necessities!
The Tur discusses the situation in which one must choose
between eating a weekday-like meal on Shabbos or begging from
the community. He writes that this was part of the life that
he personally lived. These were questions he grappled with
Let us ask ourselves, "Who deserves more: me or the Tur?"
This question should help us realize how much more we receive
than what we deserve. Why then am I so disturbed when my
friend has one more Shabbos outfit than I?
What we are really saying is that we do not start from zero.
We take all of Hashem's continuous favors and kindness for
granted and expect much more.
When HaRav Leizer Levine zt'l was approaching his
nineties, he became bedridden. He shared with his son that
when he was in his eighties, he thought to himself,
"Boruch Hashem I can go to shul on my own, and
I do not need a cane."
When he began needing a cane, he thought, "Boruch Hashem
I only need it for walking long distances, but not for
When the cane became necessary for even small distances, he
thought, "Boruch Hashem I can walk, and I'm not in a
When he became bound to a wheelchair, he thought, "Boruch
Hashem I can move around."
When he became bedridden, he told his son, "Yes, I am stuck
in bed, but Boruch Hashem I can sit up."
Do we think this way -- or do we consider walking as a
Here we have a key to free us from our chains of jealousy.
Consider all the favors Hashem does for us on a continuous
basis: shoes, clothes, health, sight, light and much more. If
we were to jot down all the "extras," a whole notebook would
The morning brochos grant us a daily opportunity to
appreciate the gifts Hashem constantly bestows on us:
pokei'ach ivrim, matir assurim, zokeif kefufim, hameichin
mitz'adei gover, etc. The Chofetz Chaim spent close to
half an hour each night thanking Hashem for His favors.
Sincere reflection of Hashem's millions of kindnesses will
instill us with Rav Leizer Levine's appreciation for life. I
start with zero. I am alive and functioning, which in itself
is enough to be grateful. All the more so, given all the
luxuries I currently enjoy.
In conclusion, developing feelings of indebtedness will in
itself greatly diminish jealousy. Continuous involvement in
appreciating one's own gifts will leave little time or need
to compare our possessions with others. And contemplating
that Hashem gives everyone exactly what we need for our
unique mission will ultimately free us from the grip of
jealousy, the "green-eyed monster."
All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.