The Path of the Just
Chapter 11 (Part 17)
Jealousy doesn’t only come down to wanting the things others have that we
don’t, it also touches on coveting more subtle things -- like the respect
they enjoy and the honor they’re accorded. For while it’s very “possible for
a person to subdue his yearnings for possessions,” still and all, “the need
for respect is more compelling, as it’s simply impossible for a person to
endure fee ling beneath others”.
In point of fact, many have lapsed in this area -- many famous and infamous
individuals, as well as the lot of us (see the incidents of Jeroboam ben
Nevat’s jealousy toward David cited in Sanhedrin 102a; of Korach’s jealousy
cited in Bamidbar Rabbah 18:2 and in Zohar 3 p. 13a; and of Saul’s jealousy
of David mentioned in I Samuel 18:7-9).
Indeed, as Ramchal puts it, “the yearning for respect tugs at your heart
more than any lust or longing in the world”, as the more sensitive among us
know only too well. In fact, if=2 0honor and respect weren’t an issue for
you, he says, “you’d be satisfied eating whatever you could get (rather than
demanding delicacies), you’d dress just to cover your nakedness (rather than
to impress others), you’d live in a house that would only protect you from
the elements (rather than in one that costs far too much), livelihood would
come easily to you (since you’d take any job you’re qualified for, despite
the title and tasks), and you wouldn’t try so hard to become wealthy (which
demands so much)”.
(And indeed, it’s the need to strive so hard that could lead to your
fostering and feeding all sorts of the kind of untoward desires we mentioned
earlier on as well.)
But we don’t take this easier, albeit less elegant path. Why? -- just “so as
to not to seem lowlier or of lesser worth than our friends”.
Just notice “how many people allow themselves to starve, or they denigrate
themselves by taking charity just not to have to work at something that
isn’t prestigious enough in their eyes”. Yet hadn’t we been taught that
we’re to "love labor" (Pirkei Avot 1:10), to "strip carcasses in the
market-place rather than say, 'I'm a great man’ (and deserve more than
that!)'" (Pesachim 113a); and that "one should rather do work that’s foreign
to him than have to depend on other people" (Baba Battra 110a)?
“The point of the matter is that the desire for honor is one of man's
greatest stumbling blocks” Ramchal asserts. And “it’s impossible for him to
be a faithful servant of his Creator as long as he covets self-respect”,
since he’ll undoubtedly “have less respect (left over) for G-d”. So we’d all
need to be free of this trait if we hope to achieve true innocence.
Text Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org