Rabbi David Zauderer
We can all understand when a parent tells a child not to take away his younger brother’s toy train. That is a normal demand to make of a child. However, if the parents would demand from their son that he not even want his brother’s toy train—we would think they were out of their minds. After all, the child is human. Of course he wishes he could have his brother’s toy. The most we can ask of him is that he realize that although he wants it, he can't take it away from his brother.
If this is the case, how can we understand what G-d asks from all of us in the tenth commandment? He asks us not to covet our friends’ house, wife, BMW, etc. What kind of demand is that? Our actions can be legislated, but surely not our emotions! If I see my neighbor’s Rolls-Royce, and I want it real badly, how can G-d ask me not to want it?
One of the great Medieval commentaries on the Torah, the Ibn Ezra, explains this difficult concept as follows. Imagine a pauper living in some outlying village far away from real civilization. One day he hears that a beautiful princess, the daughter of the king, is passing through town. As he stands there in his rags, gazing at the princess, one thing that never crosses his mind is the fantasy of spending the rest of his life together with her. He just knows that she’s out of his league.
This same concept applies to us in our everyday lives as well. G-d gave each of us certain innate abilities and talents. These were given to us to be used constructively to benefit ourselves and others and can never be taken away from us. All our worldly possessions are also gifts from G-d that were given to us for a specific purpose. For example, one person might be blessed with tremendous wealth in order that he take some of that money and donate it to charity. This is his own uniquely designed test, a test meant for him and no one else. Another person might have a fancy car because that’s what G-d wanted him to have. The bottom line is that whatever the next person has was meant for him or her, and there is no way you can get it against G-d’s will. It’s simply out of your league. Just like the princess and the pauper.
This is a very important lesson in trusting G-d. He created us, so He knows what’s good for us. We spend so much of our time thinking out what could have been, and what the other guy got that we missed out on. And G-d’s watching us, hoping that we'll stop all this futile wishing, and start appreciating all those things that we do have that were meant just for us.
Everywhere you look it seems people are always dreaming of what they haven't got.
Other people always seem the lucky guys.
We’re the ones whose lot is meaner
than over where the grass is greener.
Yet, before you go and trade places, stop and think.
It’s most likely true
that what you have is meant for you.
Rabbi David Zauderer is a card-carrying member of the Atlanta Scholars Kollel.
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