Chasing After What Others Have

Yael Eckstein  |  February 3, 2021

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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

One of the life lessons that I constantly reinforce with my children is to be happy with what God has given them — not to want what other people have, but to enjoy the gifts that they have received. I believe that this is critical in order to live a joyful and purposeful life.

In this week’s Torah reading, we come across the Ten Commandments. The tenth commandment instructs us, “You shall not covet …” Avoiding jealousy is critical, not just for a happy life, but also in our spiritual development.

We find the following statement in the Talmud: “The camel went in search of horns, and got his ears nipped off instead.” In the Bible, horns usually symbolize spiritual achievement or material success. Overall, they are symbolic of all good things that people desire. The camel represents a person who wants what someone else has and tries to get it for himself.

Chasing After What Others Have

However, it doesn’t end well for the camel. Not only is the camel unable to attain horns, he also injures his ears. Ears, in this case, represent our ability to hear God’s Word. The lesson is that 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 might potentially be.

The Jewish sages taught: “Whoever desires something that is not his, will not get what he wants, and will lose what he already has.” Truly, we have a lot to lose by chasing after what others have and everything to gain by appreciating what we have been given.

When we focus on the blessings in our own lives, instead of others’ blessings, 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.

Your Turn:

What are the three greatest blessings in your life? Give thanks and praise to God for the life you have been given!

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