These days we often hear the lament of the younger generation being obsessed with a sense of entitlement and of children who want, want, and want some more. Well, maybe we ought to take a second look at the adults raising them. Why should children be any different from their parents and want less?
I know a “grown-up” who is never happy with what she has, regardless of how loaded she is (and believe me, she’s got plenty). Just as soon as someone else has “it,” she wants “it” too. Her constant cravings, I might add, make her one unhappy person.
Some people are simply never satisfied and are constantly striving to attain more and more worldly goods. If only their cravings would be of a spiritual kind, they’d possibly end up gaining something of value.
We need to impress upon our children, while they are still young, that being envious of others is a trait that will leave them embittered and miserable all of their lives. Though I didn’t know this woman in her younger years, I am quite sure that her envious streak manifested itself in her childhood.
The irony is that we never really know what troubles lurk on the other side of the opulent entranceway to our neighbor’s mansion. Instead of focusing on another’s good fortune, let’s revel in our own! We’ll all be better off for it.
I’ll keep mine; you can keep yours
A man once approached Reb Meir Premishlaner to bemoan the fact that someone was threatening his livelihood. The Rebbe responded by asking him if he ever saw a horse drinking water from a lake. All the while the horse drinks it stomps the ground with his feet, the reason being that he sees another horse there that wants to drink (its reflection) and it is fearful that the other horse will drink up all the water. We all know that there is enough water in the lake for many horses, continued Reb Meir, and no one can touch that which belongs to you.
As the Rebbe told his worried visitor, the one who has faith in Hashem and believes that everything comes from Him, knows there’s no purpose to envying anyone else.
Envy (being desirous of what another has) and jealousy (additionally not farginning the other to have) not only create a state of unhappiness but threaten the wellbeing of both the person being coveted and the one doing the coveting – so much so that the Shemonei Esrei prayer (among others) includes an entreaty that we be safeguarded from being consumed by envy and from being exposed to the flawed trait in another, directed at us.
The Korlitzer Rebbe, in the sefer Chazon Ish, writes that contemplating another’s success with an evil eye can completely disrupt that success and Shlomo HaMelech (in Mishlei) puts it this way: “The life of the body is a heart at peace, while envy rots the bones.”
So what steps can we take to protect our children from the scourge of begrudging others their due? Teaching by example is number one. A calm and serene home environment will imbue our children with a healthy sense of self. (Children readily perceive a parent’s discontentedness.)
We can further instill self-confidence in our young ones by loving them unconditionally. Siblings are not created equal; their personalities differ, as do their natural talents and intellectual capabilities – which can unfortunately lead some parents to openly favor one child over the other. The overlooked child will inevitably develop feelings of inadequacy and the bitter seed of envy will take root.
Every neshama is special and has something special to offer. The big bonus of helping each individual child reach his/her potential: a satisfied and self-confident adult who is less likely to chase elusive dreams and long for what everybody else seems to have.
According to the Baal Shem Tov, a craving, a desire, in a human being is like salty water for a thirsty person. Not only does it fail to quench his thirst, it makes him even thirstier. The same applies to a desire a person gives in to; indulging the craving will only intensify it until it will do him in.
Hashem provides each of us with our specific needs. If you had your eye on a house and it was sold to someone else before you had a chance to act on your desire, then it wasn’t meant for you. If you got to the sale way past the time you had planned on getting there and still found the robe you had set your heart on, it wasn’t sheer luck – it was meant for you to own.
Appreciate what comes your way and fargin (be happy for) your friend’s acquisitions. You, my dear reader, have the right attitude. Thank you for sharing your invaluable insight.
* * * * *
We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.