Jealous, Envious or Happiness

Perek 5: mishnah 19 mentions that ayin tovah is one of the traits that earns a person the title of “student of Avraham Avinu.” Talmidim of Avraham are those with a good eye, who don’t feel jealous of other people’s good fortune. Feelings of envy and jealousy can create real discord inside of us and with those living around us. These feelings really rob us of a peaceful existence.
The words envy and jealousy are used interchangeably. But really, the meanings are different: Envy is wanting what someone else has, while jealousy is worrying that someone will take what you have.
It can be all too easy to feel envious. Sometimes we can have these feelings because circumstances really don’t seem fair. Why is it fair that that all three of your neighbor’s daughters got married at nineteen, and your twenty-seven-year-old sister is still single? How is it that your friend is celebrating a simchah in her family, and you are sitting at a sick parent’s bedside? Why are you so happy with a grade of 85% after studying for hours, but your classmate is disappointed with her 93%, and she didn’t even open her notebook to review? Why did you have to spend your own, hard-earned money on a longed-for new item, when your friend’s mother bought her two of them?
And it is so easy to feel jealous. Your jealousy can make you feel that you must always be in the hallways with your best friend, or someone else might take your place as her best friend. Or it can make you feel that you must be the most dedicated employee, or someone else might take over your job. And it is jealousy that can cause you to feel angry that the bachur agreed to date your friend and not you.
Feeling envious or jealous doesn’t allow a person to live a contented life. If you are always wondering why someone has what you don’t, then life becomes bitter. Don’t be a student of Bilaam, but rather, a student of Avraham Avinu. Know that what you have in life – both the physical possessions and the circumstances – is tailor-made for you. No one can take away what truly belongs to you, so why let negative feeling rob you of happiness?
My older sister was always happy with other people’s good fortune. What was really amazing to me was how excited she was when I got engaged, and she was not yet married. She was bursting with joy. She was so excited to start planning the wedding. And I wanted to say, “Esti, why are you so happy? Don’t you feel a little jealous? You have been dating and dating. Most of your friends have a few children already. And now your younger sister is engaged? Aren’t you human?”
Yes, she was human. And she couldn’t wait for her chassan to come along. But she knew that I hadn’t taken her chassan away from her. This was how Hashem planned my life and this was how Hashem planned her life. And therefore she lived a truly contented life with genuine simchas hachaim. No envy and no jealousy tearing her kishkes out. Isn’t that how you want to live?
This article originally appeared in Links magazine and appears here in revised form, with permission.

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