"You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." - Exodus 20:17
The Torah portion for this week is Yitro, which means "Jethro," from Exodus 18:1-20:23, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 6:1-13.
In life, it's often tempting to want what other people have. Sometimes we are even jealous of who someone else is. We might covet someone's spiritual accomplishments or someone's physical assets, like their car, their home, or their family. However, whatever form our coveting takes, we are committing a serious sin. In this week's reading, we come across the Ten Commandments. The last, but certainly not the least, of them is: "You shall not covet . . ."
You see, God knows exactly what each of us needs. Just as someone else's shoes, no matter how expensive or attractive they are, might not fit our feet, so, too, someone else's life, no matter how good it looks, probably doesn't fit our needs. We all have a unique potential and purpose in the world, and God gives us what we need to fulfill it. Wanting what someone else has is like wanting the wrong tools for the job you were given to do.
The Talmud, Judaism's oral tradition, puts it this way: "The camel went in search of horns and got his ears nipped off instead." Horns represent different things in the Bible. Sometimes they represent spiritual illumination and other times they represent honor or material success. In general, horns represent something that we look at and say, "I want that!" The camel saw something he liked on another animal, desired it, and went off to pursue it.
However, it doesn't end well for the camel. Not only is the camel unable to attain the sought-after horns, he also injures his ears. Ears, in this case, represent our ability to hear God's Word. They symbolize our understanding of what we have to do in life, who we have to be, and how to fulfill our unique potential. When we occupy ourselves with chasing after what someone else has, we lose our ability to hear God's plan for our lives. We, too, can attain success, both materially and spiritually, but it will come when we follow God's plan for our lives. When we try to be someone else or have what someone else has, we lose the ability to become what we could potentially be.
The Jewish sages state, "Whoever desires something that is not his will not get what he wants, and will lose what he already has." Let's take this message to heart and focus on succeeding in our lives and stop looking over our shoulder at what the other guy is doing. Not only will we feel better, but our lives will also become better as we free our energy from the endless pit of wanting and channel it instead into the productive pursuit of becoming all that God created us to be.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President