Jealousy is defined as “feeling resentment against someone because of their success or advantages.” Judaism has much to say about this feeling, and the particular sin, when acting upon this emotion in a specific manner. Surprisingly, many Jewish sources point to some positive aspects of jealousy as well.
HOW JEALOUSY CAN DESTROY A PERSON
A recent Jewish commentary (19th century), who organized a book describing Jewish concepts in detail, explained jealousy as a very poor character flaw that is driven by man’s evil inclination. When a person strives to succeed in any field and sees another individual achieve the success that he or she craves, jealousy drives this person to anguish, and creates a desire to besmirch the successful individual. This feeling can remove any joy from the life of the person experiencing jealousy.
Many verses in Jewish Scripture describe this terrible character flaw. Proverbs describes the jealous person as full of constant rage, a feeling much more severe than cruelty and anger. Song of Songs compares jealousy to a form of “Hell.” This character flaw makes one’s bones rot and can even kill a person, say other verses. Jealousy can also cause a person to lose his or her share in the World to Come. The declarations in these verses are not mere predictions and ideas. Specific individuals in the Torah, some even great and righteous people, have demonstrated the enormous damage that jealousy can cause in the world.
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Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel currently works with Rabbi Berel Wein and the Destiny Foundation as the Director of Education, whose mission is “to bring Jewish history to life in an exciting, entertaining and interactive way.” Rabbi Amsel has also served as a teacher, a school principal, and an adjunct professor. He has also taught over 2000 educators how to teach more effectively. Rabbi Amsel has worked in all areas of formal and informal Jewish education and has developed numerous curricula including a methodology how to teach Jewish Values using mass media. Recently, he founded the STARS Program (Student Torah Alliance for Russian Speakers), where more than 3000 students in 12 Russian speaking countries learn about their Jewish heritage for five hours weekly. Rabbi Amsel previously served as the Educational Director of Hillel in the Former Soviet Union. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and has four children and four grandchildren.
This essay is reprinted from the book, “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values” published by Urim, or the upcoming books, “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values: Man to Man” or “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values: Man to G-d” to be published in the future. This essay is not intended as a source of practical halachic (legal) rulings. For matters of halachah, please consult a qualified posek (rabbi).