Beware of Jealousy
Bereishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8 )
Jealousy is a natural but negative feeling that can cause big problems. In this week's Torah portion, Cain's jealousy of his brother, Abel, led to tragedy. When we feel that others have something more or better than we do, we have a chance to choose not to be jealous.
In our story, a kid feels dragged by jealousy into dangerous territory.
Janet dragged the brush through her hair like a coast-guard cutter ship trying to break though an icy sea. To say that her hair was curly would be like saying the Sahara desert was a sandbox.
Oww! she whimpered, as she pulled the brush another inch further into the brown, kinky, curly jungle on top of her head. How was she ever going to get to school play rehearsal in time at this rate?
"Oh, hi Jan!" she suddenly saw a perky smiling face pop next to hers in the mirror - her sister, Liz. The girl whipped out a pretty, green comb, gave it one flip through her perfect, silky, straight hair - which she really didn't even have to do, because from the moment the kid popped out of bed, her hair looked like she'd just combed it. Liz grabbed her stuff and skipped out the door, leaving Janet in the dust.
What a twerp! thought Janet, as she tugged on her hairbrush with both hands. I have to trudge through life with a bird's nest on my head while she just breezes by like a model!...
Usually Janet could get out of her snits as quickly as she could get into them - but this time the jealousy only grew as the day went on.
By nighttime, she was boiling. She glared at Liz sleeping in the next bed - she had fallen asleep right away. The kid even did that perfectly! But Janet didn't mind - because she had a plan...
Sure that Liz was sound asleep, Janet took the scissor she'd been hiding under her pillow and tiptoed toward her sister's side of the room. Just a few good snips in all the right - make that, 'wrong' places - and the kid would wake up looking less like a 'beauty' and more the like 'the beast.'
Scissors in hand, Janet leaned over Liz's nightstand and was deciding which piece of hair to chop off first, when she noticed her sister's private journal.
Let's take a peek at what the twerp has on her mind... she sneered to herself. Janet flipped the journal open to the last entry. "Things that bother me:" it said.
Hah! thought Janet, how can anything possibly be bothering Miss Perfect? She read on ... "Janet got a solo in the school concert and I only made the choir. I'm so jealous at how she has a better singing voice than I do."
She's jealous of me? Janet almost laughed out loud. True, she was a better singer - but so what? That's just the way she was made - it wasn't anything to get jealous about.
Janet closed the journal, lifted the scissors and brought it close to her sister's straight hair that was ... 'just the way she was made'!
What am I doing? Janet thought with a shiver. Just because Liz was made with nicer hair than I was, is that a reason to get jealous and ... she looked at the scissors in her hand ... especially if jealousy could almost make her do something so horrible to someone?
The next morning the girls were sharing the mirror again, and while Janet's hair wasn't any straighter than the day before - her outlook on life sure was.
Q. How did Janet feel about her sister's hair at first?
A. She was really jealous and wanted to cut it off.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She realized it was wrong to feel so jealous and especially to hurt someone because of it.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Janet learned from what happened?
A. She'd been so burnt up with jealousy that she was about to do something terribly mean to her sister. Fortunately, she realized what a negative effect jealously was having on her and tried to find a way not to feel jealous.
Q. Is the feeling of jealousy something we can control?
A. Jealousy is a natural feeling. While it may be extremely difficult to stop feeling jealous entirely, we can - and should - try to find ways to not let jealousy 'eat us up' and certainly not let it lead us to harm ourselves or others.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Janet realized it was pointless to be jealous about how someone 'just was made' - would it be okay then to be jealous about what a person was given, or accomplished on his own?
A. While it might be a challenge, we should try to avoid jealousy in these cases as well. One way is to remember that everything a person has - including his natural talents, his possessions, whether earned or given, etc, are ultimately gifts from God. And God gives each of us exactly what we need for our best, spiritual good.
Q. Is there ever a good time to be jealous?
A. When we see someone with a positive character trait, it's good to be jealous - not to wish he didn't have it - but to motivate ourselves to work to acquire it too.