In the past few weeks, we have been discussing the middah of jealousy and seeing how we might be able to overcome it.
First, we discussed how jealousy stems from the thought that I need to have whatever my friend has… but this is not necessarily true. The truth is each of us were created to fulfill a unique, different purpose on this earth, and therefore Hashem gave each of us a different set of “tools” to help us accomplish whatever we need to accomplish in life. Just because my friend has a huge house, an impressive salary, or a brilliant mind, does not mean that I need these things in my life as well. In fact, it could be that if I were given what my friend has, then it would be harmful to me – much like a child with perfect eyesight who wishes he had glasses, but the glasses would actually harm him.
Next, we discussed how in order to truly integrate this concept into our hearts, we need to learn to trust Hashem and know that He will take care of us. Hashem is our loving Father who knows what’s best for us, and will continue to take care of our needs just as He has done for us in the past. The more we recognize that Hashem gives us everything we need, the less jealous we will feel, because we will stop desiring things we don’t have.
Being Happy for Others
Once we know that Hashem is taking care of all our needs and we don’t have to worry, it is much easier to feel at peace with other people and celebrate their successes.
Let’s say you own a fruit store, and, despite your greatest efforts and frequent sincere tefillos, your business is still failing. Now, let’s say there is someone else in your city who also owns a fruit store, and his business is booming!
How will you feel about his success?
If you have worked on your bitachon and know that Hashem is taking care of you and that everything He does is for the best – you will be happy for your friend and happy that his business is doing well! After all, his success in business has nothing to do with your own. Hashem will take care of your business regardless of whatever happens to your friend. But if you are still stuck in the faulty belief that things run according to the “natural” world, then you may feel as if your friends’ success is detracting from your own. This thought can lead to feelings of Sinas Chinam (baseless hatred) and can even cause machlokes (arguments and fighting).
Indeed, the Chovos HaLevavos1 says that someone who has bitachon will love other people, and others will love him. He doesn’t want to hurt other people, and is not afraid that other people’s successes are taking away from his own success.
The Sifsei Chaim2 adds that such a person will even give generously toward other people, because he is not afraid that other people are taking anything away from him. He knows that Hashem is taking care of all his needs. He will be free of lustful desires, hatred, and jealousy, which all stem from a lack of trust in Hashem.
Passing Over Your Middos
As we try to integrate this truth into our hearts, we can keep in mind that “external actions can impact our internal feelings.”3
Even if you are not yet feeling truly happy for your friend, and you are still struggling to overcome your feelings of jealousy, it is worthwhile to push yourself to express happiness for him anyway.4 Sometimes, when we push ourselves to act or speak in the way that we wish we were acting or speaking, it can help us truly feel those feelings deep down.
Indeed, if we push ourselves to express joy for our friends’ successes, we will be practicing the skill of being “Maavir Al Middosav” – “passing over” our middos.
Chazal teach us this secret: “Kol HaMaavir Al Midosav, Maavirim Lo Al Kol Pi’sha’av –If a person “passes over” (i.e. overcomes) his bad middos, then Hashem will “pass over” (i.e. forgive) all of his sins!”5
What does it mean to “pass over” your middos? Rav Dessler6 explains that these words of Chazal are not directed toward someone who never experiences feelings of anger, jealousy, or frustration at all. Rather, Chazal are speaking to regular people like us who sometimes feel angry, frustrated, or impatient.
Since it’s nearly impossible to totally uproot these bad feelings from our hearts, Chazal are telling us that we must try at least to “pass over” the bad middah. Just as a person is able to drive down the street even when there’s a blockage in the road – as long as he can “pass over” the blockage or pass around it – we, too, must make sure that our bad middos like jealousy don’t turn into obstacles that fully block our paths of love and understanding toward other people.
There will always be times when we feel jealous, angry, hurt, or frustrated. But the key is to prevent those bad feelings from taking up 100% of the space in your heart. Try to leave a tiny drop of room for feelings of love, happiness, understanding and connection to pass through.
This week, let’s practice “passing over” our feelings of jealousy, and making an effort to express our happiness for our friends’ successses. The more we do this, hopefully it will remind us that there is truly no need to be jealous at all, because Hashem is always taking care of us and He will make sure we have whatever we need.
Sources:  Chovos HaLevavos Shaar HaBitachon, end of Chapters 5 and 6;  Sifsei Chaim Middos V’Avodas Hashem, Vol. 1 pg. 665-6;  Minchas Chinuch 16, 40, 95, 99, and others;  Sefer Chochma U’Mussar Vol. 2, 201;  Chovos HaLevavos Shaar HaBitachon, end of Chapters 5 and 6;  Michav MeiEliyahu Vol 1. pg. 136
Once a day, say out loud that you are happy about what someone else has, OR daven for another person’s needs.
- I’m so glad my friend has a pretty sweater, good for her!
- Hashem, please help my neighbor find a new job that he enjoys better than his current one that is driving him crazy.
- What did the brothers see that made them feel jealous of Yosef? (See Bereishis 37)
- What did Moshe Rabbeinu do in Bamidbar Chapter 11 in order to prevent jealousy among the 12 tribes? (See Rashi on Bamidbar 11:26)
- What did King Shaul hear that made him feel jealous of Dovid? (Shmuel I 18:7)
- Pirkei Avos 4:21 says that jealousy is one of 3 middos that “remove a person from this world.” What are the other 2 middos?
- In the times of Mashiach, the Navi predicts that 2 tribes will no longer be jealous of each other. Which 2 tribes is it? (See Yeshayahu 11:13)
Questions to Ponder
- Pirkei Avos 4:21 says that jealousy is one of 3 middos that “remove a person from this world.” What do you think it means that jealousy “removes a person from this world”?
- The Gemara says that eating breakfast in the morning helps alleviate feelings of jealousy, and puts love in its place. How could this be? What does eating breakfast have to do with feeling jealous?
- The Sheim Mishmuel writes that when the Jewish people are unified, then we will feel less jealous of each other.
How do you think unity helps alleviate jealousy?
- Rav Tzadok HaKohen writes that ta’avah (lust/desire) and kinah (jealousy) are the negative forms of chessed (kindness) and gevurah (strength/the ability to resist). What do you think this means?