A heart at peace gives life to the body,
but envy rots the bones. — Proverbs 14:30
It could be your neighbor’s new car or maybe it was your fifth-grade teacher praising your best friend, but not you. There are so many scenarios that can catch us off-guard and bring out one of the ugliest traits that we are all susceptible to — the experience of jealousy. Whoever came up with the expression “eat your heart out” in reference to producing jealousy in another person was speaking a truth. In Proverbs we learn “envy rots the bones.” Jealousy destroys us from the inside out.
But there is a flipside to self-defeating jealousy. The very same verse begins, “A heart at peace gives life to the body.” Literally translated from the original Hebrew, “a heart at peace” is called “a healing heart.” The Jewish sages explain that a healing heart is a soft heart, one that accepts and forgives and is kind and generous.
A healing heart is the exact opposite of a jealous heart. A jealous heart wants what others have. A healing heart is happy for others when they succeed. A jealous heart is never satisfied. A healing heart is always content. A jealous heart is focused on its own personal gain. A healing heart looks out for the well-being of others.
Yet, for all jealous people do to better their own lives, they only bring ruin upon themselves. In contrast, kind, content, and generous people will bring peace and healing to themselves and to others. People with such a positive and peaceful attitude allow the body to function properly while spreading peace and health to those with whom they interact.
Of course we’d all prefer to have a healing heart over a jealous one. But how can we avoid jealousy?
The following story can help us. Once there were two eagles who would fly together. One eagle was able to fly higher and faster than the other, making the less adept eagle very jealous. One day, the jealous eagle spotted a hunter and asked him to shoot the other eagle. The hunter said that he could, but needed a feather for his arrow. The jealous eagle was happy to oblige, plucking one of his own feathers. The hunter missed and needed another feather, and then another and another. The jealous eagle supplied so many feathers that soon he didn’t have enough feathers to fly. The huntsman turned around and shot the eagle who could no longer fly or escape.
This story shows us how to avoid jealousy — by knowing deeply that it harms us most of all. When we feel jealousy beginning to grow and fester inside us, we must allow our hearts to be healing hearts, bringing life and joy to ourselves and those around us.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President