Thursday, May 31, 2012

Jealous much?

12 Sivan 5772 / June 1-2, 2012

In this week’s portion, Naso, there is no shortage of controversial material.

In particular, there is a section dealing with how to handle a situation in which a husband is convinced that his wife has cheated on him and gets insanely jealous, but there are no witnesses to her supposed crime.  The steps set forth for dealing with this have some Hogwarts-like elements to them, as the Torah says the husband must bring his wife to a priest, and then describes a procedure involving both spells and potions.  I encourage you to take a close look at it – it’s quite a read.

Believe it or not, in the Jewish tradition, one could argue that being jealous is expected of us, and even can be considered Godly. 

After all, God states in the Book of Exodus: “I the Lord your God am a jealous God.”

Thus, when we’re jealous, we are in some way reflecting a Divine attribute.

What is it to be jealous?

I would argue that to be jealous is to care, that the opposite of jealousy is passivity, and that it is preferable to be jealous and care than dispassionate and passive. It is those who are discontent with how things are (i.e. jealous of what could be) who work towards change, who invest their time and skills, and who have a significant impact on the world around them.

While letting jealousy consume you is clearly unhealthy, and while our tradition teaches us that it is the person who rejoices in his/her portion in life that is truly rich, having an appropriate amount of jealousy and accompanying care is absolutely a positive characteristic, and has the ability to meaningfully transform the world around us.

This week, think about what makes you jealous.  Focus on how you can translate that jealousy into care, and that care into meaningful action.

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