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We all know we're not supposed to be jealous, right? And we know that the last of the Ten Commandments is "thou shalt not covet."
But what exactly is the difference between coveting and being jealous? And what about envy? And are all three really so bad?
To covet means to desire. So coveting, or desiring, in and of itself may not be so bad. But when we covet something that belongs to someone else, that's a problem. Why's that a problem? You're not actually taking anything. Well, even if that coveting doesn't lead to action - and it might - thoughts have their own reality. In one sense, thoughts are even more real than the physical world. So coveting what someone else has can never be good.
What about being jealous, or envious? Well, "jealous" has two meanings. On the one hand, to be "jealous" means to resent another's success. That's the meaning most of us probably associate with the word. We use it that way all the time when we're talking about someone else's achievement. And it's that type of jealousy the Torah tells us to avoid.
But there's another type of jealousy, and it's more closely related to its cousin, "zealous." In this sense, to be jealous means to be intolerant of rivalry, to demand an exclusive relationship. And it's in this sense that the Torah talks of G-d being a "jealous G-d." It means that G-d resents it when the Jewish people become distracted by other things. It means that G-d expects and demands an exclusive relationship with the Jewish people, like that of a husband and wife.
This brings us to envy. Envy and jealousy have similar meanings, but there's an important difference. Envy, unlike jealousy, is not a resentment, an exclusion, whether proper or not, of others. In a sense, jealousy is directed outward, toward excluding something or someone else.
Envy, rather, is more inner directed. It's a feeling of discontent. Envy signals not a focused emotional energy (for good or bad) but a dissipation, an unhappiness, a dissatisfaction with one's self.
We can distinguish between the three thus: To covet means not only to desire what someone else has, but to also want to take it away. To be jealous means to expect an exclusive relationship and resent any attempt to share or change it. To envy means to be unhappy with what one has and wish to have the same thing (or relationship) that someone else does.
And this brings us to "kosher envy." Because envy can move us in two directions. It can move us toward a type of coveting, of wanting to take away from someone else, toward an attitude of "if I can't have it, neither can anyone else."
Or it can move us toward a type of jealousy. It can move us not to take what belongs to someone else, but to take what is exclusively ours. Envy can lead to an attitude of "if he can have his, I can have mine, too."
For example, we see how someone gives charity generously, or how someone has a truly open, inviting warm Jewish home. Or how parents make sure to plan positive Jewish experiences for the whole family. When we see any of this, we may feel envy. Here is a person who has connected with his or her Judaism.
And that superiority makes us unhappy. So our envy drives us to do one of two things: we dismiss the act or belittle the person, or we end up with "kosher envy": If (s)he can do those things, so can I.
In other words, we transform the discontent into a quest for the Torah study and mitzva observance we can call our own, that belongs to us.
So how do you know whether your envy is kosher or not? Look at where it leads you.
In this week's Torah portion, Eikev, Moses recounts the story of the Golden Calf and the breaking of the first set of Tablets.
After praying for another 40 days and nights, G-d commands Moses, "Hew for yourself two tablets of stone like the first...and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke."
G-d then commands the Jewish people to build Him a sanctuary, "so the nations will know that the sin of the Calf has been forgiven."
Our Sages teach that one of the factors contributing to the sin of the Golden Calf was the great quantity of gold in the Jews' possession.
Because they were unable to withstand the temptation, one might think that, after their sin, G-d would forbid them the use of gold for all time. Yet we find that the exact opposite occurred: the very first material mentioned in the building of the sanctuary - the purpose of which was to atone for the Golden Calf - is gold!
"The world was not worthy of the use of gold..." our Sages explain. "It was created solely for the purpose of the sanctuary and the Holy Temple."
After being brought into existence for this reason, permission was then granted for mankind to utilize gold for other purposes as well.
This is but one example of the principle that everything in the world is created to serve a G-dly purpose. "Everything created by G-d in His world is only created for His honor," the Mishna teaches.
G-d grants man the free will to choose how His creations are to be used - to fulfill the purpose for which they were created, or, G-d forbid, to do evil.
Gold, created solely for use in the sanctuary and Temple, was utilized by the Children of Israel for their idol-worship.
The gross misuse of the gold, however, did not alter its original purpose one iota.
G-d has no desire to destroy His world simply because some people are foolish!
Furthermore, the fact that G-d allows man the capacity to utilize His creations for evil adds to His honor. For human nature is such that when a person is confronted by obstacles, inner strengths that would not otherwise have been revealed are brought to the fore, strengthening his resolve in the service of G-d.
This fundamental principle applies not only to things that were created during the Six Days of Creation, but to modern discoveries and advancements in technology that are constantly being invented.
These too, are part of Divine plan, and are also "discovered" solely for a G-dly purpose. The true objective behind all of creation, in reality, is one and the same -- to enhance the service of the Creator of all things.
The fact that some people choose to utilize these means for corrupt purposes does not detract from their original intent. On the contrary, when a Jew utilizes modern technology for the purpose of spreading Torah and its commandments, he elevates these tools to their true perfection, for which they were discovered in the first place.
Adapted from Sefer Hasichot of the Rebbe, 5748, Vol. II
Proud to be Jewish at the Boy Scout Jamboree
by Aliza Karp
Across America it is not unusual for a Jewish Boy Scout to be the only one who is Jewish in his troop. This ratio also holds true at the Boy Scout Jamboree, which is held every four years at Fort A.P. Hill in Bowling Green, Virginia, when more than 35,000 Boy Scouts and another 8,000 staff of volunteers participate in a comprehensive summer camp experience.
So this year, when the Boy Scout troop from Alaska suffered the tragedy of losing four of its leaders to an electrical accident on the first day of the Jamboree, the only Jewish Boy Scout in the Alaskan contingent, Noah Magen, was left in a quandary. Come Sunday morning, when Jamboree activities are suspended for a few hours, all his troop mates would be going to religious services for each of their own religions. But what does a Jewish scout do on Sunday? Especially during the week of the death of loved ones, when religion takes on extra significance?
Shimmy Heidingsfeld, a member of the Tzivos Hashem team, learned about Noah's dilemma and went to the campsite of Alaskan Troop 711 to find Noah and bring him to the "Shul Tent," for the Sunday program. At the Jamboree, Tzivos Hashem, the international Jewish children's organization founded by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1980, provides programming enjoyed by Jewish Boy Scouts of all backgrounds and levels of Jewish observance. This is the fourth Jamboree in which Tzivos Hashem has participated.
Tzivos Hashem solved the dilemma for Noah, and for many other Jewish scouts at the Jamboree. "One of the first things Noah spoke about when he got home was the Shofar Factory at the Sunday Jewish program," said Noah's mother. "It meant a lot to him to be able to attend and connect with the other Jewish scouts."
The Tzivos Hashem program was held in the Shul Tent, where the 100 scouts and leaders, who are Sabbath observant, pray with a minyan daily. On Friday night, the Shul Tent, together with the adjacent Chapel Tent, was overflowing with 500 Boy Scouts for Shabbat services.
Scout Patrick Matson, a lone Jew with Troop 271 from Ocean Springs, Mississippi, wanted to attend the Friday night services. In order to abide by the buddy system, he brought along a friend who was not Jewish as a buddy. The "youth friendly" service was conducted in both Hebrew and English. The Hebrew was mostly singing and the English read aloud. The singing took on a camp style spirit and became lively and fun. Patrick was pleased, "My friend said the service was amazing."
The Jamboree schedules a mixture of mandatory and optional activities. Each Jamboree participant is obligated to visit the Religious Relationships Booth of his religion. The Jewish booth was at the back of a tent shared with booths of various religions. The Jewish booth was a constant buzz of activity.
The Tzivos Hashem program in the Shul Tent drew close to a thousand Boy Scouts. The program opened with brief greetings by Boy Scout dignitaries, a play about loving a fellow Jew staged by the scouts, and singing with audience participation. The boys then went to different stations and booths in the Shul Tent. They were able to craft their own Shofar, braid a "Havdala" candle, and have their picture taken at a panorama display of the Western Wall while wearing tefilin. Surrounding the Shul Tent were clusters of scouts and leaders engaged in Jewish studies.
Executive Director of Tzivos Hashem, Rabbi Yerachmiel Benjaminson sees the Boy Scout Jamboree as a window of opportunity. "Tzivos Hashem is fortunate enough to have a team of enthusiastic young men who take an interest in each and every Jewish scout. In the short span of the Jamboree, they are able to give the scouts a taste of their Jewish Heritage and a desire to learn more."
Jay Lenrow, Chairman of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting, came to his first Jamboree in 1964 with his father, who was also his scout master. In 2001, Jay came again to Jamboree, this time he was the scout master and his son was the scout. "What we want to do is create a strong Jewish connection to link the generations by combining the love of the outdoors and camping achievements, coupled with growth and development of Jewish knowledge and observance," said Jay. "Scouting can do that."
Sunday afternoon a gathering was held in the Shul tent of Chabad Rabbis from Virginia and Maryland, together and officials from the Boy Scouts of America.
"We stand ready to support any organization whose values line up with ours," explained Dave Richardson, National Director of Religious Relationships. "A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
Twenty-three year old Mendy Nagar, of the Tzivos Hashem team, attended a Boy Scout leadership program and explained to the Rabbis, "At first I was sure their method would not work. It sounded good, but there was no discipline involved. It was based on giving the kids responsibility, which makes them self-motivated. But to my surprise, when I tried to make it happen with real kids in a real camp... it worked!"
The Rabbis agreed that Scouts and Chabad share many values. It was decided that they would begin a relationship with the Scouts by providing Jewish programming for Jewish scouts in their areas. Mr. Richardson said he would get word out to the scouts that Chabad programming would be made available. "We have to work together for the sake of the children," concluded Richardson.
Four New Emissaries on Campus
The successful activities of Chabad at Harvard and MIT are receiving much needed support with the arrival of Rabbi Levi and Chana Altein to Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Rabbi Yisroel and Sheina Wilhelm are gearing up for the fall with the opening of Chabad at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
A new Chabad House, serving students and faculty, is opening in Las Vegas under Rabbi Tzvi and Rivky Bronchtain at the University of Nevada.
Rabbi Michoel and Chana Refson will soon be arriving in Athens, Georgia, to establish Chabad at the University of Georgia. The opening of the new centers on campus is being made possible through grants from the Rohr Foundation.
A letter of the Rebbe written in the fall of 1976
Greeting and Blessing:
It was a pleasure to see you recently with your family.
Pursuant to our conversation and my question if you had any connections with NASA, I do not have in mind about a position with that agency, but rather if there was any possibility of your exercising your good influence there in regard to spreading Yiddishkeit.
What prompted me to ask this question was the fact that I had recently received the book Challenge - Torah Views on Science and Its Problems, edited by Aryeh Carmell and Cyril Domb (published by Feldheim).
I was certain that I would find in this book an essay by you, but I was disappointed.
Needless to say - and it is a well known principle - that it is no use crying over the past. If I mention my said disappointment, it is not to make you feel uncomfortable, but to call your attention to the fact that since there will no doubt be a further book of this kind, it would be well for you to maintain contact with the persons or circles that are connected with it so that you would have advance notice to be able to participate.
Furthermore, I am not thinking in terms of the distant future, but also of the shorter term, and the sooner the better. For, if you will look through this volume, you will no doubt find something to say to the editors, especially as among the contributors you will probably find some whom you know personally.
I mention NASA, etc., because Yiddishkeit [Judaism] should be brought to each and every Jew, particularly in the current year of Torah education, when everyone is urged to do the utmost to bring the Torah and Torah commandments to all Jews, young and old, including those who are advanced in years but still young in the knowledge and experience of Judaism.
All the more so since space technology, and the space flights, including the latest Viking probes on Mars, have made a profound impression upon wide circles of Jews, being also constantly bombarded by the media with the visual effects of photographs, etc.
Consequently, if all this can be used in the right direction, by finding and pointing out those aspects which may have a bearing on Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments], the psychological effect in promoting the actual observance of the Torah commandments in the daily life could be tremendous. This would be well in keeping with the directive.
Inasmuch as you have had so much experience and success with various circles of Jewish youth, there is no need to elaborate to you on the above.
May G-d bestow His blessings on you and yours in a most generous measure, especially that you and your wife should bring up each and all of your children to a life of Torah, wedding and Good Deeds, in good health and happy circumstances.
Wishing you and all yours to be written and inscribed for good,
27th of Av, 5742 
Greeting and Blessing:
This is to confirm receipt of your letter of the 19th of Av. As requested, I will again remember you in prayer for the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good.
Inasmuch as we are approaching the auspicious month of Elul, I trust you know of the parable which the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chasidism] used to explain the significance of this month, namely the parable of "a King in the field," when the King is particularly accessible to everyone, and is also especially gracious and benevolent. May G-d grant that this should be so also in your case, and that your increased efforts in matters of Yiddishkeit, Torah and Mitzvoth - which is a must in any case - will bring you increased Divine blessings in all needs, materially and spiritually.
25 Av, 5765 - August 30, 2005
Positive Mitzva 173: Appointing a King
This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 17:15) "You may appoint a king upon yourselves" When the Jewish people occupy and settle the Land of Israel, they are commanded to appoint a king to rule the nation. This king is chosen by G-d and the Torah guides him regarding how to conduct his kingdom. He must lead the people in G-d's ways and be dedicated to fulfilling the Torah and its mitzvot.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This week on Shabbat afternoon we study the fifth chapter of Ethics of the Fathers. The first Mishna reads: "The world was created by means of ten [Divine] utterances. What does this come to teach us, for indeed it could have been created by one utterance? It was done so in order to bring retribution upon the wicked who destroy the world which was created by ten utterances, and to bestow ample reward upon the righteous who sustain the world which was created by ten utterances."
Our Sages have asked, if the world could have been created with one divine utterance, then why, in fact, was it created with ten?
Had the world been created with just one utterance then the world would have been on such a high spiritual level that everything would have been nullified to G-d. Thus, no entity, including humans, would have felt its own identity and there would have been no free choice in the world. Therefore, G-d created the world with ten utterances so that the world could be diverse and any self-nullification of a creation to G-d would not be an innate natural tendency, but rather a product of its own effort.
However, with the above explanation it seems as if G-d "could not" create the world with one utterance which, if this was the case, why does the Mishna even bother to suggest that He "could have?"
Thought is potent, Chasidic teachings emphasize. That G-d "considered" creating a more highly spiritual world than currently exists before creating this more mundane world actually gives the potential for this mundane world to be elevated to G-d's originally intended level of spirituality. And it gives us the potential to carry through this G-dly ordained mission.
Through using our G-dly gift of our soul powers -- thought, speech and action -- responsibly, we prepare ourselves for the revelation of Moshiach and can bring about the ultimate elevation of the world, which will take place in the imminent Redemption.
And it shall come to pass - eikev - because you will listen to these ordinances, and keep, and do them (Deut. 7:12)
Eikev, literally means "heel." The time immediately preceding the Final Redemption is often referred to as "the heel of Moshiach." That is to say, at the end of time, "you will listen" - in the end we will have no choice but to obey G-d.
(Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotsk)
And now, Israel, what does G-d want of you? Only that you be in awe of G-d your L-rd, so that you will follow all His paths and love Him...(Deut. 10:12)
Awe without love is not complete. Love without awe is nothing.
(Rabbi Aharon of Karlin)
To be in awe of G-d, your L-rd (Deut. 10:12)
A person must fear the sin itself and not merely the punishment it incurs. The situation is analogous to a father who warns his son not to walk around barefoot. The father warns that if the child steps on a thorn, he will have to be brought to a doctor to remove it and the operation will hurt him a lot. The son, because of his youth and limited intelligence, is not afraid of the thorn itself and the possibility that he might step on one; he is merely afraid of its removal. The father, however, truly wants him to avoid the thorn, and sees its removal as a positive remedy if he should so require it. So it is with our avoidance of transgression. Man wishes to avoid punishment, but G-d worries about the sin itself, and sees the punishment as a necessary atonement and correction.
(The Maggid of Mezeritch)
When the young chasid heard that the Baal Shem Tov (known as the Besht) was going to spend Shabbat in Posen, he was anxious to accompany him. Alexei, the driver readied the coach and they set out on the journey.
The Baal Shem Tov never traveled in an ordinary manner. While the driver sat napping, the horses were given free rein and ran at enormous speed. When the horses finally stopped, the carriage was standing in a grassy wooded area. The Baal Shem Tov took a flask and sent Alexei out to fill it with water from a spring.
He returned with the water and the Besht gave it to the chasid, cautioning him to make a blessing before drinking. As soon as the chasid grasped the flask, he felt an intense thirst and barely managed to recite the blessing. Afterward, the Besht and Alexei drank as well.
Everyone got back into the carriage. Once more, Alexei fell into a deep sleep. The unreined horses continued at their unnatural speed, coursing through the countryside. "We are going so fast, but we don't seem to be reaching Posen," observed the chasid.
But the Besht was unconcerned, and replied, "We will be in Posen, G-d willing, at the proper time." They travelled throughout the night at the same enormous speed. When they stopped in the morning the Baal Shem Tov prayed at great length. Then they resumed the trip. The hours passed in rapid travel, but the chasid, who had travelled to Posen many times before, saw no familiar sites. Nevertheless, he did not question the Besht further.
Finally, the horses drew to a stop outside a ruined shack and the Besht descended from the carriage. They entered the house and there on the floor lay a sick old man surrounded by his tattered, emaciated family. But when the old man saw the Besht, he rose to his feet and embraced him. The two spoke in hushed tones for some time. After the old man blessed the Baal Shem Tov they returned to the carriage and continued their journey.
Shabbat was descending when at last they reached the city of Posen. They alighted from the carriage on the Street of Students, a place known for violent anti-Jewish riots. Sure enough, as soon as word had spread that Jews had arrived they were surrounded by a vicious mob. The Besht traversed the crowd, unafraid, with the frightened young man at his heels.
They entered the house of a Jewish tailor, the only Jew tolerated by the locals because of his useful trade. The tailor greeted his guests joyfully, but with trepidation. "You have nothing to fear," the Besht assured him. Together with the assistant tailors, they formed a minyan, and began the afternoon service. But they were interrupted by the noise of a mob outside the door. The Besht opened the door and focused his blazing eyes on the hooligans. Terror-struck, they turned and fled.
When the story of this astonishing rabbi reached the ears of a certain university professor, he burned with curiosity. What kind of man could this be? He made his way to the tailor's house to observe the holy Besht. The following day he returned and sat, eyes riveted on the majestic figure of the rabbi. He listened intently to the Torah which was taught, and didn't move until Shabbat was over.
When they had eaten the Saturday night meal escorting Shabbat, the Besht instructed the driver to bring the carriage and they departed, travelling again at a fabulous speed. In no time they arrived back in Brod. The young man was completely baffled. He got up the nerve to question the Besht. "I can't understand the point of this journey. Please allow me to ask you three questions: First, why did we stop in the grassy area? Second, who was the sick old man we visited? And third, why did we spend Shabbat with the tailor in Posen?"
The Besht replied: "I will answer two of your questions. The third you will decipher in due time. In the high grass there lay the bodies of two murdered Jews who had never received a proper burial. By reciting the blessings on the water, and praying the next morning we were able to elevate their souls. The sick old man was the greatest tzadik of our generation. He was destined to be Moshiach, but since our generation was not prepared for him, he was to pass away that very night. As for the reason for going to Posen, you will find out later."
Many years passed and one Shabbat the chasid happened to be in Posen. He had occasion to visit the home of the rabbi there and spent a wonderful Shabbat there, absorbing the erudite Torah commentary of his host. Suddenly the young man was struck by something his host had said. "I heard these very same words from the Baal Shem Tov in the house of a tailor right here in Posen!"
"Are you the young man who accompanied the Besht?" asked the rabbi.
"Don't you recognize me? I am the university professor who was present. The words of the Besht caused me to attach myself to Judaism."
Now the chasid finally understood the purpose of the mysterious trip to Posen.
Our conduct can hasten the coming of the Redemption. Since we are "on the threshold of the redemption," it is possible to appreciate a foretaste of the unlimited approach to the Torah and its mitzvot (commandments) that will characterize the Era of the Redemption. And tasting such a foretaste of the Redemption will bring it closer.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 16 Menachem Av, 5751 - 1991)