Stay in this world!
In the beginning of this week’s Parsha we hear the story of how Korach, a first cousin of Moses and Aaron, led an uprising against Moses. He was unhappy that his younger cousin Elitzaphan was chosen to be the leader of their family. Even though he was extremely wealthy, a prominent member of the Tribe of Levi and had been granted the incredible honor of carrying the Ark, he was not satisfied. While he said that he wanted to get closer to God and help everyone become holier, it became clear that this was a grab for power. He was jealous of Moses and Aaron who had not sought to be leaders but rather had been selected by God.
Envy is a powerful and destructive force and is often not rational. It prevents us from enjoying our own blessings. When you focus on the success of another person and feel pain because of it, you are likely to do things that are highly counterproductive. In Pirke Avot it states that envy is one of the three things that totally destroy a person and “remove one from this world.” The downfall of Korach was because of this trait. Not only did he not get what he wanted, but he also lost everything he already possessed including his life. Jealousy can be a very lonely emotion. It pushes others away and makes their happiness and success less important than one’s own. King Solomon, in Proverbs 14:30, also commented on envy, saying, “A tranquil, healing heart gives life to the flesh, but envy brings a rotting of the bones.” From a mental health perspective, envy can cause constant emotional stress, depression and even physical symptoms.
It’s not easy to get rid of that green monster that haunts us. It is especially difficult if we spend a lot of time on social media where so many people seem to be happier, wealthier and more traveled than we are even if that is not really true. The key is to focus on what you have and on what you can accomplish in this world. Jealousy occurs when we look at others and compare ourselves to them. When you focus on all the gifts in your life and your own personal successes, you don’t ever have to envy another person.
By cultivating feelings of connection with friends, family and community, we can overcome the lonely jealousy monster and learn to be truly joyful at the success of others. God wants something different from each of us and gives us gifts accordingly.
Let us learn from this story about the dangers and isolation of jealousy, and always remember that our goal as Jews is to work to bring honor to each other and to God. If we conduct our lives with this objective in mind, we will avoid jealousy and resentment, and will focus our energies on doing what is right and on being content, but not on what will bring us fame and power.