Shmuel Alef Perek 28

Rav Miller of Gateshead would relate the following lesson from the Shaul episode, in the name of Rav Dessler. Regarding the negativity of the middah of jealousy, we are told that it ‘removes a person from this world’ (Avos 4:28), and the Gemara (Brachos 7b) expresses Dovid Hamelech's warning (Tehillim 37) 'do not be jealous of those who do wrong to be like them.' Thus, one would be forgiven for feeling justified in assuming that one should keep away from the middah of jealousy. Yet we are told ‘do not be jealous of sinners, rather of fear of Hashem all day’ (Mishlei 23;17) - in this context and facet, we are advised to positively be jealous. Why should this be and what is the logic behind this? Before we do so, let's deepen the issue somewhat…

Rav Dessler explains that negative character traits create differences between people. For example, jealousy stresses the difference that someone else has something which I do not; one cannot be jealous of something that you have already, because there is no difference to pick up on - I do not know of anyone who is jealous that their friend has two ears, because they have two ears themselves. Similarly, the middah of ga'avah ('haughtiness') is centred around the difference one creates between them and others in thinking that they are superior. Thus, if the Torah approach is one which stresses the removal of bad middos, the Torah is essentially telling us to ignore differences which exist.

This poses a major problem; the Torah is called 'Toras Emes' (the Torah of truth; birkas hatorah), and the Gemara tells us that 'the signature of HaKadosh Baruch Hu is emes' (Shabbos 55a). (Deeper still, we see that even the covering up of any partial portion of the truth is called a lie: for after Shaul fails in his task of wiping out Amalek, Shmuel tells him that 'Hashem has torn the kingship of Israel from you this day, and has given it to your fellow who is better than you' (Shmuel Alef 15:28). Shmuel here was secretly referring to Dovid, the next King of Israel, albeit the reference was in a covered-up manner - later on at the end of Sefer Shmuel Alef he reveals the identity of the next king to Shaul. Chazal reveal that Shmuel referred to this later statement as with the words 'when I was in the world of falsehood I spoke falsehood, but now that I am in the world of truth, I shall speak only truth.' We see that Shmuel calls his earlier description from perek 15 of the next king as 'your fellow better than you' as a 'falsehood' (lie). The lie was the mere fact that Shmuel covered up Dovid's identity and instead referred to him in a roundabout way as 'your fellow better than you').

How can the Torah of Truth tell us to ignore differences which exist, which is a cover-up of truth - a falsehood by its own definition!?

Rav Dessler reveals the answer here. He notes that the Torah looks at things from an infinite perspective, with the knowledge and viewpoint that this world is transient and that what really matters is that which will last for eternity and on an infinite level: spiritual achievements. Consequently, the Torah never tells us to ignore a difference that exists. The thing we do not realise is that from the Torah's perspective and viewpoint, physical differences, which we said were the root of all bad middos, do not really exist. On an infinite scale, taking into account the years one has in this world in comparison to the years beyond this world, does it really make a difference that someone else has a newer, bigger or faster car than yourself? The Torah, in warning us not to develop bad middos, is not telling us to lie, for those physical differences that are the root of bad middos are themselves non-existent differences. On the contrary, you are displaying falsehood by valuing them as something that really exists! But the Torah does say one may/should be jealous of spiritual achievements [yiras shamayim], for those are differences which do exist on the infinite scale - it will make a difference after one hundred and twenty if one had yiras shamayim or not, and the same goes for the achievement of any mitzvah. In short, where a difference really exists (spirituality), the Torah tells us to stress it, but where a difference does not really exist, the Torah warns us not to stress it.

A visitor once asked Herr Rothschild how rich he was. Herr Rothschild responded by showing this visitor accounts of the sums of money he had given to charities; 'This is what will accompany me when I leave this world - that is my wealth,' commented Herr Rothschild.