by Tova Younger
We are funny creatures. Often we very thought out, focused, on track, but sometimes so illogical. Consider this old joke, which brings out the point well: How can you make a child happy? Give him a lollipop. How can you make him cry? Give his friend two.
We need to remind ourselves that Hashem gives us EXACTLY what we need
Why should that be? He was delighted with his treat, enjoying it thoroughly, until he saw his friend had more. At that point, he probably threw his lollipop down in frustration and disgust. What happened? Why couldn’t he enjoy his treat? It even makes us laugh. But are we guilty of the same?
How many of us, perhaps subconsciously, 'decide' to be happy with something only in comparison to what our neighbor has? My car is wonderful – until you get a newer one, with the latest gadget or fashion update. My job is decent – until I hear about your lucrative position. Aren’t we behaving like the child with the lollipop?
We need to remind ourselves that Hashem gives us EXACTLY what we need to fulfill our potential, and no one can take something from us unless Hashem wills it. I find it helpful to relate to material things as medicine. Of course, a sick person has all kinds of medications, and may need costly tests and equipment. Only a fool would envy him! When I see someone with a stunning home, fancy wardrobe, precious jewelry, I have a 'pop-up' in my brain that says "That's their medicine. They need it. Thank Hashem, you don't!" Admittedly, that may bear repeating a few times, but it starts to sink in and I begin to believe it and derive simcha from it.
In our davening we say, "Mashiv haruach, u'morid hageshem -- Who causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall." Of course, we are davening for rain, but another interpretation goes as follows: return – in the sense of teshuva – the ruchnius. Help us raise our spiritual level and lower the material level. It goes along with the idea of choosing friends that are on a lower gashmius level than we, but a higher ruchnius. We have much to gain from such relationships.
We are allowed to be envious of those on a higher spiritual level
Additionally, if we simply must indulge in jealousy, this is the perfect opportunity. According to some opinions, we are allowed to be envious of those on a higher spiritual level, and for good reason. We can learn from them and copy them! Pay attention to how they prioritize their activities, their assets – cash and otherwise – and their time. Analyze their mindset and motivation. If you cannot figure out why they are ignoring something that you thought was important or why they are spending time and energy on seemingly unimportant matters, ask. Explain, of course, that you wish to learn, not criticize.
There is a well-known adage that in order to be successful, one should, "Buy low and sell high." But I once read about a very idealistic person who said the opposite, and explained: "When I no longer need something, I wish to get rid of it as quickly as possible, as it can easily complicate my life. When I want something, I just want to get it. I do not want to spend valuable time finding the best price, so I buy high and sell low."