It's natural to feel jealous when we see that someone has something that we don't. But jealousy only makes us feel bad and can ruin relationships. One of the Ten Commandments listed in this week's Torah portion instructs us to do our best not to jealously long for what other people have and we don't.
In our story, a kid discovers that jealousy is in the eye of the beholder.
Jeremy was bored. Why was it that he waited all year for summer vacation, then once it came he almost couldn't wait for it to end?
His house was real quiet - too quiet. His mom was almost always at work or working in her office at home and, with no brothers or sisters to liven things up, he sometimes felt like he was living in a library instead of a home.
With nothing better to do, he walked across his yard to Kevin's house to see if he wanted to come over and play.
Jeremy rang the doorbell and waited but there was no answer. He knew people were home since he could hear the talking, laughing and yelping of Kevin's many siblings.
He rang again, this time longer, and sighed. Kevin is sooo lucky, Jeremy thought. He always has people around. It's like he has a built-in party by just being home. Not like me, who never has anyone one around except ... myself. Still no answer.
Jeremy rang again and then knocked, but all the loud fun Kevin and his family were having must have been drowning out the sound of the doorbell and his knocks.
Feeling frustrated, disappointed, and very jealous, Jeremy turned on his heels and started shuffling back across the lawn to his quiet, boring, lonely home.
"Hey, Jer!" he heard Kevin's voice call out from behind him. He turned around to see his friend jogging his way, with his two-year-old brother in tow. "Sorry it took me so long to answer the door! Mikey here," he pointed to the toddler at his feet, "decided to throw his pancakes on the floor and stick them all over him, just as my two older sisters had stepped out to ... anyway, what's up?"
"Um, I dunno," Jeremy mumbled, sure that his happily busy friend wouldn't want to come play in his boring, silent home, "I was just going to see if you wanted to come over, but..."
"Come over to your place?" Kevin said, his eyes lighting up. "Boy, would I ever love to. But," his face darkened, "I can't right now. I just have way too many chores to do this morning - you know taking care of the little kids and all. You're sooo lucky you have that nice, big house nearly all to yourself. Your games don't get gooed up by little hands, you can shower whenever you feel like it - no lines. You can actually hear yourself think. What I wouldn't give for some peace and quiet like you have. But, I guess it doesn't pay to be jealous, huh? C'mon Mikey," he said, pulling the pancake polka-dotted little kid back toward his house.
Doesn't pay to be jealous, Jeremy let his friend's words replay in his mind - and couldn't agree more.
Q. How did Jeremy feel at first about his friend?
A. He was jealous of how his house was livelier.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He saw how his friend was also jealous of him and realized how silly it was to be jealous.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Jeremy learned that day?
A. He'd been feeling jealous of his friend at the same time his friend had been feeling jealous of him! It's so much easier and smarter to try to accept and appreciate what we have and not long for what others do.
Q. Why do you think the two kids in the story were each jealous of the other?
A. Each of them was focusing on what was negative about their situations, instead of what was positive. When we look for the good things in our own situations, we won't feel jealous of others.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Is it ever a good thing to feel jealous?
A. If we are jealous of another's good traits, and our jealousy spurs us on to improve ourselves, then it is positive.
Q. What do our feelings about God have to do with our jealousy or lack thereof?
A. If we believe, as the Torah guides us to do, that God is constantly and intimately involved with each of our lives and puts us each in the ideal situation for optimum spiritual growth and ultimate happiness, there is no reason ever to be jealous.