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Thursday, 17 July 2014

Why do we Covet?


Megillah 6

One of the most challenging commandments in modern society is “Thou shalt not covet.”   We live in a consumer society where some people seem to have it all – the latest gadgets, the biggest houses, the fastest cars.  Somehow the manufacturers of these products have managed to convince us that we need more and more.   Yesterday, I was fine without an IPhone, now I can’t survive without it.  

And we look at our friends with their fancy houses and extravagant vacations and we ask, ‘Why did G-d give me the raw end of the stick?  Everybody else has such a good deal!’

The Book of Judges states, “Zebulun was a people who shamed his soul to death [since] Naphtali was on the high places of the field.”

The Talmud explains:  Zebulun complained to the Holy One, blessed be He, saying: Master of the Universe, You gave fields and vineyards to my brothers, but You gave me hills and mountains; You gave lands to my brothers, but You gave me lakes and rivers.
The Almighty replied: All your brothers will need you for the hilazon (the fish used for the blue dye for tzitzit) as the Torah states, “Nations will call to your mountain, and the hidden treasures of the sand.” Rabbi Joseph taught: ‘Hidden’ refers to the hilazon; ‘treasures’ refers to tuna; ‘sand’ refers to white glass.

Zebulun then said: Master of the Universe, who will inform me when they take my treasures?  
The Almighty replied: “There they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness.” This shall be your sign: whoever takes from you without payment will not prosper in his business.

If so, why did Zebulun complain about his portion? And if you want to suggest that Zebulun was dissatisfied because his portion was not ‘flowing with milk and honey’, Resh Lakish said: I have myself seen the trail of milk and honey round Tzipori in Zebulun’s lot, and it is sixteen square parsas.  Nor can you say that even so his was not as good as his brothers’, since Rabbah the grandson of Chana said in the name of Rabbi Yohanan: I have myself seen the trail of milk and honey of the whole land of Israel, and it extends from Be Kubi to the Fort of Tulbakne, twenty-two parsas in length and six parsas in breadth, totaling only 132 square parsas.  Thus, Zebulun had more than his fair share of milk and honey! 

Despite all the bounty of his portion, he wanted fields and vineyards, like Naphtali had. This is the meaning of the verse, “Naphtali was upon the high places of the field.”

The Almighty has given different blessings to every person.  The root cause of jealousy is that you hone in on one particular blessing that somebody else has and wonder why G-d couldn’t be as benevolent to you.   Of course He has been very gracious to you, but momentarily you manage to ‘forget’ all the blessings He has given you because you’ve become so fixated on the one thing the other person has that you don’t have.  And so for all the incredible bounty Zebulun possessed, all he could think about was Naphtali’s fields and vineyards.

Never mind that Naphtali had no hilazon, tuna, or white glass.  Never mind that Naphtali had nowhere near as much milk and honey.  When you covet someone else’s possessions, you don’t look at what they don’t have – all you can think about is what they do have that you don’t.

The cure for jealousy is to think about all your blessings.  Maybe the Almighty hasn’t showered you with riches.  But maybe you’ve been blessed with good health.   All the money in the world couldn’t buy good health!  Maybe you’ve been blessed with nice, respectful children.  Isn’t that worth thanking G-d for?  Maybe you’ve been blessed with a pleasant spouse who you can share your most intimate feelings with.  Isn’t that more wonderful that a fancy car?


The Almighty has bestowed incredible blessing upon your life.  When you simply hone in on one aspect of your friend’s possessions, you have no idea what their whole picture looks like.  Think about all the blessings G-d has given in you.  Your life is probably quite enviable after all!