Parking at work is always such a hassle. The problem is that there are 300 employees but only 200 parking spots. “It’s no big deal,” says your boss, “come early, there are loads of free spaces!” Wonderful advice, but it doesn’t change the fact that eventually the spots will fill up and there won’t be enough. Truth is, it doesn’t really bother you, because you’ve always been an early bird. And so, every day you get a spot, no problem.
One day, the company announces that it will be adding another hundred spots directly adjacent to the building. Those spots will be reserved for the finance department. Wonderful news. Now there will be enough space for everyone! Only problem is you’re in HR and so you are still in the old parking lot with the five-minute walk to your office. Your blood boils every day as you get near the building and walk past the new spots.
But why are you upset? Your parking space hasn’t changed. Until now, you’ve been very content each day as you’ve driven into the parking lot and found a spot without difficulty. Why suddenly the change of heart?
When several people break bread together, they must bentch together. On Daf 38 of Sotah, the Gemara discusses who should lead the zimun.
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi taught: We only give the blessing cup to lead bentching to one with a good eye. As it states, “The good eye, he shall be blessed, for he has given of his bread to the poor.” Do not read it “he shall be blessed,” but “he shall bless.”
Rashi: One with a good eye – those who spurn opulence and provide material kindness.
What is the connection between having a good eye and leading the zimun? When one recites the bentching, he is thanking Heaven for providing sustenance. That action of gratitude, in turn, causes further blessing to descend. And so, in effect, the one who is leading, is requesting material sustenance for all the participants.
An individual who is miserly and jealous of others’ material prosperity will not truly want them to be blessed. And so, if he were to lead the bentching, he would not mean what he says. It is only the person who spurns opulence and shares his worldly possessions with others by providing material kindness who may be trusted with leading the bentching and truly meaning what he says when he is requesting Heaven’s bounty (Maharal, Chidushei Agados).
Unfortunately, many people approach material prosperity as a zero-sum game. Your gain is my loss. I may have maintained the same fine level of income all along, but if I sense that you have experienced a significant increase in wealth, I suddenly feel poorer. When I “see” that you have a fancier car, a more lavish vacation, a bigger house, I become dissatisfied with my lot in life, even though my income may be decent, compared to 99% of people in the world! This concept is hinted at in the Hebrew word for “eye” – “ayin.” It contains the same letters as “ani,” meaning “poor.” When you measure your material prosperity by “looking” at other people’s wealth, you will always feel poor (Ben Yehoyada).
The person with a good eye is happy when he sees his neighbor prosper. He knows that his neighbor’s new car hasn’t made him any poorer. It’s not about relative prosperity; it’s about absolute prosperity. If you were to add up our combined incomes – mine and my neighbor’s – overall, we are doing better than last year. I might have remained in the same place; but he has earned more. Therefore, I rejoice at the total increase in wealth. That is the definition of having a good eye.
When the company builds the new parking lot and is suddenly able to accommodate all the employees, you should be happy. So what, some people get to park a little closer? It hasn’t affected your parking spot. You’re in precisely the same place you’ve always been. For years, you’ve been content to park there. Why would you be dissatisfied now?
How do you feel when you hear of others’ success? Are you truly happy for them? Or do you start feeling jealous? Are you prepared to give away your worldly possessions to others who need sustenance or even just a loan? Or do you have a bad eye, an eye that gets jealous at another person’s prosperity?
There are two types of hatred in this world. One stems from a problem of conflict between two people. Resolving the conflict results in shalom. The other type stems from jealousy. For that hatred, there’s no way to achieve shalom. So long as the other person has more, the jealous individual will despise him (Ben Yehoyada). May you develop a good eye and have shalom throughout your life!