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Tuesday, 27 October 2015

There's no reason to be jealous of anyone else's success

Daf Yomi Nazir 66


Who invented the light bulb?  Conventional wisdom says that it was Thomas Edison.  That version of the story, however, has been challenged over the years by a competing narrative that claims that one Nikola Tesla, who was working for Edison, was the true inventor of the light bulb and that Edison took all the credit.  So who indeed was the real brains behind one of the greatest inventions of all time?

Rabbi Yossi teaches: One who responds Amen is greater than the one who made the blessing.
Rabbi Nehorai replied: Heavens, that is so true!  The proof is that the foot soldiers first engage with the enemy on the frontlines, but then the special ops come in to seal the victory!

The real story behind the lightbulb, scholars say, is that Tesla was working for Edison’s company and they had a falling out.  Edison was working on one project, Tesla on another.   The light bulb that actually came to fruition was the prototype that Tesla had been working on when he left the company.  Edison then took the new light bulb, patented it, manufactured it, marketed it, and mass-produced it.

You can imagine how Edison must have originally felt when, on a trip to Europe, he found young Tesla, who was nearing completion of the idea he had dedicated his life to figuring out.  His first reaction was probably devastation.  Everything he had been working on had been a waste of time; someone else had beaten him to it!

Rabbi Yossi’s message is: Don’t worry if someone else beats you to the punch.  Responding Amen to a bracha (blessing) is even better than making the bracha

You might have worked hard to come up with a new idea or project.  Suddenly your competitor or co-worker beats you to it.  You feel crushed – all that time and effort for naught!

Don’t give up!  Take what they’ve accomplished and expand the horizons even further.  It’s not about the blessing; it’s how you respond to it!  The foot soldiers must fight the battle on the frontlines.  You are special ops – you get to come in and achieve the true victory after all the slog work has been done by others.

That’s the Torah’s promise to us when we enter the ‘Holy Land.’  G-d promises to give you “great and fine cities you did not build, houses filled with all manner of good you did not fill, wells dug out you did not dig, vineyards and olive-groves you did not plant, and you shall eat and be satisfied.”
Would you be upset if you weren’t the one to plant the vineyards?  Of course not!  You would take the vineyards to the next level by gathering the grapes, pressing them and making wine!  That’s what the Almighty wants you to do when you find that your great idea already exists.  He wants you to take it to the next level! 

Don’t ever be jealous that someone else came up with an idea before you.  Take the concept and make it even better!  G-d invested this finite world with the light of the infinite – there’s no limit to the amount a good idea can be expanded and improved upon.  Imagine Thomas Edison and everyone after him had contented themselves with the light bulb, where would we be today?


You have unlimited creative potential.  The wheels on the skateboard may already be invented but has anyone made that 2015 hoverboard yet?  There’s no end to the great ideas that can be built upon the great ideas.  May you never covet anyone else’s success and may you use all the great ideas to design and create even more incredible concepts!