Yitro (Exodus 18-20 )
One of the Ten Commandments we read in this week's portion is not to covet. That means not being jealous of other people's things. One way to avoid jealousy is to know and trust that God takes personal care of each one of us and gives us just what we need for our best good. If it would be truly better for us to have more, God would have given it to us.
In our story a kid finds out that sometimes having less is really having more.
Larry got up from the supper table and returned after a moment, with a determined look on his face. He eyed his mother warily as she served out the delicious looking dessert.
"Aha! I knew it!!" he shouted triumphantly, whipping out the small ruler he'd hidden in his pocket and making some quick measurements. "Look! Mindy's piece is exactly 3/4 inches bigger than mine! No fair!" This was the latest in a long series of efforts to show his parents the error of their ways.
Larry's mom took a long, deep breath. "Larry, Daddy and I have told you, many many times, that each person gets what's good for him. If you were to see the piece of cake on your plate all by itself, you know what you'd say?"
"'SO MUCH?! Thank you Mom!' It's only because you're looking someplace else that it looks so small to you. Try to enjoy it, Larry, okay?"
Larry frowned for a few moments in protest, but couldn't resist the tempting piece of cake in front of him. He ate it, even though, as far as he was concerned, the battle was far from over.
A few days later, Larry's mom took him and his older sister Mindy to their favorite store to buy birthday presents with the money their grandparents had sent. This store was known for their great puzzles, so Larry and Mindy spent quite a bit of time by the puzzle shelf, deciding, selecting, returning, and picking again, with lots of help from Mom. They soon made their final decisions, and as they were waiting on line, Larry took one last satisfied look at his puzzle, then glanced over at the puzzle in his sister's hands. Suddenly, his eyes went wide.
"Hold on a minute! Hold on just one minute! Look at this! Mindy's puzzle is 1,000 pieces! Mine is only 100 pieces!"
"Of course! Larry, the puzzles go according to age. For Mindy's age, a thousand pieces is just right for her. For your age, one hundred pieces is the perfect amount."
"NO FAIR! Why should she get ten times more pieces than me? I want 1,000 pieces also!"
"But Larry, it will be too hard for you!"
"I don't care. I want 1,000 pieces just like Mindy. I'm not leaving this store until I get a puzzle with the same number of pieces!"
Although Larry's mom was not too pleased with his behavior, she was also anxious to teach him a little lesson.
"Okay, Larry. No problem. Go pick out another puzzle. We'll wait for you here."
Larry was thrilled. Filled with a sense of victory, he marched back to the puzzle shelf and took the first one he saw marked 1,000 pieces. He didn't even bother to look at the picture on the front of the box.
Back at home, after phoning Bubbie and Zeidie to thank them for their gifts, Larry and Mindy took down their puzzle boards and started to open up the boxes. Mindy got right to work. Piece after piece of the puzzle quickly fell into place, and soon you could see the outline of a beautiful swan swimming peacefully across a clear blue pond.
Things were not going as smoothly on Larry's end. Totally overwhelmed by all the tiny pieces, he could barely manage to put more than two together. He realized now how silly he had acted, as he watched his sister enjoying herself immensely. His jealousy had landed him a big fat zero. Frustrated, he said to himself, "What is this thing supposed to be anyway? I never even looked at the picture!"
Turning over the box, he found himself face to face with a huge, green-eyed insect-like creature that seemed to be smiling at him.
"Yuck, talk about the green-eyed monster…of jealousy!" he turned to the picture and said, "You're not someone I want to look like - or act like - anymore."
Q. How did Larry feel at first about which puzzle to take?
A. He was jealous and wanted the same type as his big sister, no matter what.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He saw how the 1,000 piece puzzle really wasn't good for him and he had lost out by being jealous.
Q. What life lesson do you think Larry learned that day?
A. Larry was constantly feeling jealous and that he was missing out by not always getting as much as someone else did. However, the puzzle episode taught him that sometimes wanting and getting something just because someone else has it, is not the key to happiness.
Q. Do you think Larry is going to be as concerned about how much his sister gets from now on?
A. He may keep track, but it's doubtful it will bother him quite as much, since he now understands more what his mother meant by 'everyone getting what he needs.'
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Does avoiding jealousy mean not standing up for what's coming to us or trying to get the most out of life?
A. Not at all. God wants us to try to maximize our lives, only that we don't fall into the trap of wanting things just because someone else has them or being jealous of those who have what we do not.
Q. Our sages teach that jealousy can make a person physically ill. Why do you think that is?
A. One reason is that when we are jealous we are out of balance and disconnected from the flow of life. In truth, God gives each of us what is for our best and when we are jealous we are in a state of denial of that truth which causes anguish, anxiety and damages our health.