December 11, 2020
Unhappiness is a plague. One of the components of this plague is jealousy. Jealousy consumes an individual and can ruin one's work, relationships and business. Certainly jealousy is a key ingredient in martial arts organizations; ranks, status, who gets to spend more time with the master etc. Some people try to learn to overcome jealousy, and certainly this is praiseworthy. Often jealousy just eats away at us until a relationship is ruined, within a family, among friends and within an organization or business.
Perhaps this week's Torah reading can provide some insight. I have been reading the same verse over and over again and meditating on its lesson, I am going to call this Positive Jealousy.
Joseph, the youngest of Jacob's children, is experiencing his dreams. He is young and brash and he makes the mistake of making his dreams public. This causes great strife and jealousy among his brothers. He then experiences a dream where "The sun and the moon and eleven stars bowed down to me." (Genesis, Chapter 37, verse 9). He tells this dream to his father and Jacob immediately understands the meaning, it is referring to the brothers of Joseph and his parents as well. Jacob is not pleased with this at all and in fact rebukes his son Joseph, "Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow down to you to the earth!!"
Now the question is the reaction; what happens next? How will Jacob respond and how will the brothers respond? The verse in Hebrew contains a very enigmatic word that is translated and interpreted in many different ways, "And his brothers were jealous of him but his father kept the matter" (Genesis, Chapter 37, verse 11)
Others say "his father kept the matter in mind", or "Kept the saying in mind".
To me it seems that it means, his father was not pleased with the way it was expressed but he did not dismiss that in fact, his youngest son Joseph, might indeed be destined for greatness. We see in fact that this did take place, Joseph became second only to Pharaoh of Egypt and his brothers indeed had to bow before him, not knowing who he was.
To me there are two different reactions to jealousy; the brothers were hurt, angry and jealous of all the ideas that were expressed in these dreams, that the younger brother would rise above the older brothers. But Jacob, although he was not pleased with the attitude of the young man, felt he should...see how this develops, see how this matter comes up; keep the matter in mind for it may in fact be true.
What I see is two reactions to jealousy; one is completely non-productive, it is just anger and pure jealousy. This is destructive and nothing positive will come out of it. The other is, perhaps this person is indeed headed for greatness, but let me keep this in mind. Let me keep my eye on him. Let me see if he does achieve greatness and if so, I will rejoice for him and I too will be blessed by this success.
Jealousy is not always a negative thing, we say; The jealousy of scholars increases wisdom. Wanting to be a great scholar is motivation for more study and research, wanting to be a great martial artist is motivation for extra training.
If someone else earns their black belt, let that motivate us to train harder, we also want that black belt. Just standing on the side and being jealous is of no value. The brothers were jealous and sought to harm Joseph, but Jacob, kept the matter in mind.
Have a good Sabbath everyone.