Did you ever notice that the Ten Commandments only discuss one character trait? “Thou shall not be envious.” Isn’t that amazing? The Ten Commandments doesn’t say anything about anger, laziness, greed, or stinginess. They don’t make mention of the evils of arrogance or being self-centered. The only character flaw they warn us about is the danger of envy.
In retrospect this should come as no big surprise for, at the very start of the Torah, jealousy is discussed over and over again. Rashi informs us that Hashem decided to make man in His image on earth for otherwise earth would be jealous since the heavens already had G-d’s image in the creation of the angels. Thus, we find that the very creation of mankind was an anti-jealousy mechanism. Elsewhere, Rashi informs us that Hashem created man out of a synthesis of Divine celestial breath from above and earth below. This composition was specifically designed again to avoid jealousy for Rashi explains on the first day Hashem created heaven and earth. Then, on the second day He created the firmament above. On the third day He cleared the dry land below. On the fourth day, the luminaries above were created by Him. On the fifth day, the water swarmed with fish below. Therefore, on the sixth day, He once again had to synthesize man as a mixture of heaven and earth. Otherwise, there would be no symmetry in creation which would result in jealousy between heaven and earth. Imagine! If man would have been created solely from the Divine, He would have been spared all his baser earthly lusts and desires. Yet, in order to dodge the dangers of jealousy, man was given an earthy ingredient.
The Torah informs us Adam and Chava were initially unclothed in Gan Eden. Immediately afterwards, the Torah relates the drama between the snake and Chava. Rashi explains that the juxtaposition of these two events is to reveal to us that the snake saw Chava unclothed and was envious and he therefore stirred up all the trouble. Then, in yet another tragic repercussion of jealousy, the Torah recounts the first episode of homicide when Kayin killed his own brother Hevel because he was envious of the fact that Hashem favored his brother’s sacrifice more than his own.
The Torah is known as “Toras Chaim,” the Instruction for Living, and it contains advice on all aspects of life. As we are taught in Pirkei Avos, “Hafoch Ba, hafoch Ba, de’kula Ba – Turn It around, turn It around, as everything is contained in It.” Since Hashem’s syllabus for life starts off with so many warnings about jealousy, it is obvious that Hashem, our Manufacturer, is informing us that one of the ugliest pitfalls to avoid is the sinful trait of coveting that which is not ours.
The Orchos Chaim L’HaRosh states that jealousy is a vicious sickness that has no cure. Evidently, he is advising us to make sure that we don’t get into the habit of looking enviously at others because, once we fall into this habit, it is very difficult to creep out of it. In Pirkei Avos we are taught “Eizeh-hu asher? Ha’samei-ach b’chelko – Who is happy? He who is happy with his own lot.” The main lesson of this Mishna is that wealth and happiness are to be found by one who derives satisfaction from his or her own blessings. This is a great discipline of life: To dwell on the many riches we have and not on what we think we are missing. While it is easy to believe that things are better by your neighbors, remember we say the daily blessing, ‘she’asa li kol tzarki – Hashem makes for me all of my needs.” What I see by others might look tempting, but Hashem gives me what I really need for my ultimate fulfillment.
Obviously, since Hashem put this warning in the Ten Commandments and mentioned this at least four times in the beginning of the Torah, it is something that the true Ben Torah and Bas Yisrael must work on to incorporate into their personality. Thoughts like ‘I wish my wife would be like that,’ or ‘Why can’t my husband have such a job,’ or ‘If only I could have such children,’ or ‘Wouldn’t it be swell to have such a home, car, or vacation?’ are all prohibited by the Tenth Commandment.
May it be the will of Hashem that, in the zechus of learning Hashem’s Torah, He empowers us to be happy with what we have and not gaze enviously at the success of others and in that merit may He bless us all with good health, long life, and everything wonderful.