Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Jealousy

JEALOUSY MAKES US FOOLISH…

TORAH PORTION: KORACH

korach2Jealousy is resentment against another’s success or advantage. There is almost always a deeper, inner insecurity that is causing the jealousy. Someone’s success or advantage does not automatically cause another to feel jealous. Rather, it somehow triggers something deep inside that, in turn, causes the jealousy.

In this week’s Torah portion, Korach, there is dissension amongst the ranks while the Israelites are wandering in the desert. The source of the tension is the way one group of men sees Moses and Aaron. The men believe that Moses and Aaron have taken too much of the leadership upon themselves. But if we keep in mind the fact that Moses and Aaron’s actions must have triggered something in the men themselves, then we must ask: What was truly behind the men’s feelings? And we find our answer just a little further in the text. The men ask if everyone is holy, then why are Moses and Aaron singled out amongst them.

The answer does not really matter to them, because their jealousy clouds their ability to think rationally, and no amount of explanation calms their emotions. It is easy to get worked up about things that seem unfair, especially if they are highlighting dissatisfactions in your own life. If we allow our emotions to take over and we lose rational thought, then our actions can spin out of control. On the other hand, if we are able to identify these feelings in ourselves we can tap into them in a thoughtful way and try to handle things calmly and logically.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about managing jealousy and maintaining rational thought.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What events or circumstances make you jealous?
  • What are those things triggering inside you?
  • What are some ways you can manage those feelings?
  • Can you think of a time jealousy kept you from being rational?

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

“THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE”…

TORAH PORTION: LECH-LECHA

lechlecha2Jealousy rears its ugly head when we’re least expecting it. We may feel jealous of our friend’s summer vacation plans, our brother’s charisma and charm, or our colleague’s corner office. We may be envious of people we love and people we don’t even know. We might resent a model’s shiny hair, thin waist and radiant smile, or a singer’s ability to hit an F-sharp. However, envy fogs our ability to think straight and make good choices.

In this week’s Torah reading, Lekh-Lekha, Sarah was jealous of her maid Hagar. Hagar easily became pregnant while Sarah struggled to conceive. Resentment of Hagar’s good fortune caused Sarah to treat Hagar harshly.

There will always be times when we find ourselves fueled by jealousy. However, like Sarah, we must realize that envy leads us to make poor choices and treat others unfairly. Moreover, jealousy leads us to feel dissatisfied with our own lives so that we don’t appreciate our own good fortune. As opposed to looking over someone else’s shoulder and wanting what he or she has, try to examine the blessings in your own life. When you feel jealous, remember that others are probably jealous of you as well. Try to stand in their shoes and appreciate all the wonderful things you have in your life.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the dangers of jealousy.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • When have you been jealous of others?
  • Why would someone feel jealous of you?
  • How can you remember your own good fortune when you feel envious of others?

By Yael Hammerman

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

WHEN THE GREEN-EYED MONSTER VISITS…

TORAH PORTION: NASO

Naso1Jealousy is a powerful force.  Adults and children are both vulnerable to this feeling, but children are especially prone to being jealous of their friends: “He has the more expensive sneakers”, “She has straight hair”, “He’s taller than I am”, “She’s a faster runner”.  The litany continues ad infinitum.

In this week’s Torah portion a husband is jealous about his wife’s suspected infidelity.  The Torah goes to great lengths to set out an elaborate procedure aimed at allaying his jealousy.   In this way the Torah acknowledges what a destructive force jealousy can be.

To address this in our children, we must first become models for them.  Try to refrain from comparing oneself to one’s friends and neighbors.  Ask yourself: do we live within our means or are we trying to keep up with our neighbors?  In this very competitive society that we live in, people not only compare themselves with others, but they often compare their children’s accomplishments to those of their friends’ children.  No wonder that our children compare themselves to others!  If we ourselves refrain from engaging in this comparison game, when our children compare themselves to others, we can encourage them to focus on what they are and have, rather than what others are and have.  Rabbinic wisdom declares “Who is rich?  One who is happy with what he has.”

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the feelings of jealousy and comparing themselves to others.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What makes you jealous?
  • What do you think might help you to be less so?
  • Has jealousy ever prompted you to say or do something that you regret?
  • Have you ever tried to provoke jealousy in others?

By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

JEALOUSY…

TORAH PORTION: BALAK

balakHow do you react when your friend wins a prize or gets a promotion? A common reaction is jealousy. You may feel deficient when you see your neighbor or friend with something that you don’t have. It’s sometimes difficult to remember that all of us have our own set of circumstances that we need to acknowledge and accept. You may be jealous of her new car, while she is jealous that you can stay home all day.

In this week’s portion, Balak, the Moabite king hired a non-Jewish prophet named Balaam to curse the Jewish nation. Balaam understood that in order to curse the Jewish people he would need to see them. Seeing them he hoped would allow him to find something that would arouse the feelings of jealousy and anger he was looking for.

Jealousy is what results when we spend too much energy looking at what others have. Instead, we should be looking at ourselves and what we have, appreciating our blessings and aspiring for growth in all areas. Jealousy can paralyze us and force us to define ourselves by another person’s successes. We each have unique capabilities, physically and spiritually. We need to focus on what our true potential is and work towards that, instead of trying to get what someone else has.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about their unique strengths, abilities, and opportunities.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are some things you wish you had?
  • Why do you want those things?
  • What mind set do you need to be genuinely happy for another’s success

By Rabbi Moshe Becker

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

WORDS CAN HURT…

TORAH PORTION: CHUKAT
chukat“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Every child knows this popular aphorism, but the sad truth is that words do matter and they can hurt. When we feel stressed, angry and frustrated, many of us speak without thinking first.  Words can become daggers that wound others as well as ourselves.

In this week’s Torah portion, Chukat, Moses is asked to provide water for the Israelites.  Just before the water flows from a rock, Moses, apparently worn out by the demands of leadership, loses his temper.  Moses calls his people, “You rebels”, and in exasperation, strikes the rock twice. In light of this shocking behavior, God immediately decides that new leadership is needed to bring the people into the Land of Israel.

This painful biblical episode shows how all people need to be careful with their words, especially when they occupy a position of authority. Harsh words can cut a little deeper and last a little longer when they come from someone we respect, trust, and love.  That is precisely why adults need to see themselves as role models in not just what they do, but also what they say. Just as words can push people apart, so too can they bring us closer.  By taking the time to think before we speak, we have a better chance of finding the right words in every situation.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the effect of their words on others.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What can we do to make sure that we think before we speak?
  •  How do we respond when someone hurts our feelings with words?
  • When has someone’s words of encouragement helped you?
  • Water can keep us alive or drown us, and fire can warm us or destroy us.  How are words similar to water and fire?

By Rabbi Charles E. Savenor

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.