web analytics
September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Apartment 758x530 Africa-Israel at the Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York

Africa Israel Residences, part of the Africa Israel Investments Group led by international businessman Lev Leviev, will present 7 leading projects on the The Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York on Sep 14-15, 2014.



The Origins Of Discontent


Front-Page-111111

Indeed, a study not long ago showed that people are happier if they are earning $25,000 and their neighbor $50,000 – than if the sums are doubled and they earn $50,000 and their neighbors earn $100,000. Why? After all, though the income gap has widened, they too are earning more money.

For only one reason, and it’s what greases the wheels of much of the discontent in America and across the globe today: jealousy. What a deadly character trait. Envy ruins lives, leaves people dejected and despondent, and is the cause of wars and much suffering,

Envy is the very antithesis of the Sukkot holiday we just celebrated. Rav Dessler writes famously that Sukkot reflects bitul hayesh, the nullification of the material. Has anyone ever walked into someone’s sukkah and said: “This is beautiful – I am so jealous, I wish I had a sukkah like this”? Of course not. And why not? Because it is gone in a week, and is therefore defined as a temporary dwelling.

But that is the point – everything in this world is temporary, so why be jealous? Why covet what someone else has?

The Gemara (Avoda Zara 3a-b) states that in the future the nations of the world will be tested with the mitzvah of Sukkot. The nations are easily inflamed, and much of what they accomplish is triggered by jealousy. So God burns the sun on them as if it is the height of summer – the sun, which to us appears to be the most permanent fixture of the physical world. And they kick their sukkot on the way out, as if to say the only reality is the material world, of substance, and mergers and acquisitions – so why waste time and energy on something like the sukkah, which is temporary and cannot stoke our competitive juices?

If that regression will happen in the future, as the Gemara says, the good news is that that future is already here. And it is fostered by a heavy-handed government that speaks of charity and generosity as disguises for outright theft. Trillions of dollars spent in a war on poverty has created more poverty, not less. The poverty rate has increased since the war on poverty began, as well as fostered a cycle of multi-generational welfare dependency and a surfeit of broken homes.

* * *

As Jews, we perceive the material as temporary and tangential to life, and look to God as the only true source of our rights and values. To us, life is blissful when, as in the time of King Shlomo, “Yehuda and Yisrael dwelled in security, each person beneath his vine and his fig tree” (I Melachim 5:5) – each person content, satisfied and comfortable with himself and his neighbors, free of the burdens of jealousy and greed.

It is hard for a thinking Jew to generate much sympathy for the “demonize the rich” populism, for a number of reasons but especially because the Torah seems to like the rich (the Torah likes the poor too). It is one of the defining, oft-repeated themes of Avraham’s life – and maybe a great nisayon as well. The Torah sees fit to emphasize that Avraham leaves Charan not only with his wife and nephew but also “with all the wealth they had amassed.” And he does well in Egypt – “laden, very heavy, with cattle, silver and gold.” Strange words – kaved me’od, not that he was wealthy, ashir, but kaved, heavy. Wealth can be a burden as well.

And Avraham rejects the gifts of the king of Sodom, so “you shouldn’t say, ‘I made Avraham rich.’ ” And the Torah underscores that both Yitzchak and Yaakov (and Moshe) were wealthy, all of which gave them credibility with their contemporaries. In the most far-reaching comment, Avraham is told his descendants would be enslaved in a land not theirs for 400 years, “after which they will leave with great wealth.” But why is this important? And why does the Torah speak of wealth of our ancestors again and again?

About the Author: Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is the spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun of Teaneck, New Jersey, and the author most recently of “Judges for Our Time: Contemporary Lessons from the Book of Shoftim” (Gefen Publishing House, Jerusalem, 2009). His writings and lectures can be found at www.Rabbipruzansky.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “The Origins Of Discontent”

  1. Jonathan Gold says:

    Rabbi Pruzansky never disappoints. Great article on wealth from a torah perspective.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Protest rally against Metropolitan Opera staging Death of Klinghoffer on 9/22 at 4:30 pm at the Met.
For Grass Roots Klinghoffer Protest 9/22, Jewish Establishment MIA
Latest Indepth Stories
IDF lone soldier and  David Menachem Gordon (z"l).

Why has his death been treated by some as an invitation for an emotional “autopsy”?

Starck-091914

SWOT analysis: Assessing resources, internal Strengths&Weaknesses; external Opportunities&Threats.

Kohn-091914

Strategy? For the longest time Obama couldn’t be bothered to have one against a sworn enemy.

Miller-091914

Seventeen visual skills are needed for success in school, sports, and everyday life.

We started The Jewish Press. Arnie was an integral part of the paper.

Fear alone is substantial; without fusing it to beauty, fear doesn’t reach its highest potential.

Fortunate are we to have Rosh Hashanah for repentance, a shofar to awaken heavenly mercy.

Arab leaders who want the US to stop Islamic State are afraid of being dubbed traitors and US agents

National Lawyers Guild:Sworn enemy of Israel & the legal arm of Palestinian terrorism since the ’70s

A little less than 10 percent of eligible Democratic voters came out on primary day, which translates into Mr. Cuomo having received the support of 6.2 percent of registered Democrats.

The reality, though, is that the Israeli “war crimes” scenario will likely be played out among highly partisan UN agencies, NGOs, and perhaps even the International Criminal Court.

Peace or the lack of it between Israel and the Palestinians matters not one whit when it comes to the long-term agenda of ISIS and other Islamists, nor does it affect any of the long-running inter-Arab conflicts and wars.

Rather than serving as a deterrent against terrorist attacks, Israel’s military strength and capabilities are instead looked at as an unfair advantage in the asymmetrical war in which it finds itself.

Sisi:”The religious nature of the Middle East creates challenges for the governing authorities.”

More Articles from Rabbi Steven Pruzansky
Rolling out the Red Carpet for the Pope's visit to Israel.

There is a certain unwordliness to the pope’s call for a two-state solution, an obliviousness to the reality on the ground.

A modern-day Jewish warrior in the tradition of Abraham, Moses, Joshua and David.

One can’t only take; one must give as well. Giving – not taking – is the essence of the righteous person.

Much of what we know about 19th century Orthodoxy is false, including the provenance of the term Orthodox.

A president who today used the language of FDR or JFK would be derided. If he were a candidate, the media elites would bury his chances of winning the election. He would be a laughing stock to the aimless young people whose uninformed opinions on public affairs seem to matter more than they should.

With the constant drumbeat of articles about “Orthodox” female rabbis appearing in the media almost weekly – essentially the same articles making the same points to the same eager audience, all to make the phenomenon of such “rabbis” seem commonplace – it is important to take a step back and examine how we arrived at this destination.

The Wall Street Journal last month featured a front-page article titled “After These Jewish Prayer Services, Things Come ‘To Life’ at Open Bar,” with the sub-heading, “To Woo Worshippers, Synagogues Compete with Food and Booze.”

In the wake of the presidential election, American Jews must once again ask a fundamental question that seems to defy both societal trends and a clear resolution: why do Jews overwhelmingly support the Democratic candidate, year after year, election after election?

The notion of the “Reagan Democrat” is one cliché that should be permanently retired.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/the-origins-of-discontent/2011/11/12/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: