All We Have Is What God Wants for Us

Yael Eckstein  |  January 19, 2022

Girl hugging and blessing elderly woman
(Photo: F. Young)

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

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Yitro, which means “Jethro,” from Exodus 18:1-20:23.

If you have kids, you’ve probably heard the following phrase after saying “no” to something they asked for: “But so-and-so has one!” or “But so-and-so gets to do that!” I’m sure I said that to my parents when I was a child, and on occasion, I hear it from one of my own children. 

Years ago, I developed a strategy to deal with my children feeling entitled to something because of what their friends have or get to do. 

When they tell me about their friend’s toy, I ask them to tell me about their own toys. I say to them, “Ok, but what toys do you have?” When they tell me about the fun thing that their friend did, I say, “But what are the fun things that you have been blessed to do?”

I try to take the focus off of what my child thinks he or she lacks, and place it instead on their blessings.

All We Have Is What God Wants for Us

In this week’s Torah portion, we read the Ten Commandments. The last of God’s commandments is “You shall not covet.” Many commentators ask: How can God command us not to feel something? How can I control whether I feel covetous or jealous? How can I fulfil this commandment?

One of the great medieval Jewish commentators, Rabbi Avraham ben Ezra, explained this with a metaphor. He said that a peasant boy does not have a burning desire to marry the princess and is not angry or jealous when she marries a prince. The princess is so out of the peasant boy’s league that she is not a realistic possibility for him. So, it doesn’t even enter his mind to be jealous of the prince who married her.

In the same way, he explains, if we have full faith in God, we know that all we have is what God wants for us to have, and whatever other people have is what He wants them to have. With this perspective, we won’t even struggle with being covetous of other people’s things. We will intuitively know that other people’s possessions are completely off-limits. They are simply not meant for us.

When we adopt this perspective, we then will be able to lead happier and more satisfied lives, rejoicing in the blessings we have been given. Try it this week!

Your Turn:

Give thanks to God today for what He has given you, with faith that He knows exactly what you need.

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