If he is poor and his means are not sufficient... (Lev. 14:21)

The offerings of a wealthy and poor man are not equal - they are only required to bring offerings according to their means. The Mishnah(1) states that a wealthy metzora (a person struck with tzoraas) who brings a poor man's offering has not fulfilled his obligation with such an offering.

The same concept applies to a Jew's spirituality. A person must put forth the utmost effort when it comes to serving God, and he must utilize fully the potential that God has granted him. We may often validate our bad behavior by comparing ourselves to friends who are doing similarly. However, this is a grave error. Your friend may fall into the category of a spiritually "poor man" - perhaps he does not possess the same capabilities and knowledge that you do. If you act like him you may well see your own obligation to reach greater heights go unfulfilled. The greater our potential, the greater the expectation.(2)

The verse states "in heaven above and on the earth below." (3) In pursuit of spirituality (heaven), one must look up to people that are "above" him, people that are greater than he is, and strive to be like them. However, in pursuit of physical pleasures (earth), one must look at people that are "beneath" him. One should look at those who have less than him and therefore he will be content with what he has.(4)

NOTES

1. Nega'im 14:12.

2. Chofetz Chaim.

3. Devarim 4:39.

4. Sh'lah.