Word for the Week ... Yitro
Rabbi Simche Sherer

This is the week the Creator gives the Torah to the Jewish people. The reading of the great revelation at Mount Sinai occurs in this Parshah, Yisro, and with it come, of course, the Ten Commandments.

Which would you say is the most difficult of the Big 10 to keep? Would it be the first, the mitzvah to believe in G-d? Faith doesnít come as easy to our generation as it did in the days of our grandparents. Children with aged parents suffering ill health and who require much attention might argue that the fifth commandment, Honor thy Father and Mother, is the most difficult. Still others would say that Number 4, keeping Shabbes, cramps their lifestyle more than any other.
While each has a valid point, probably the most popular vote would be for the last commandment, Number 10, You shall not covet.

You shall not covet your friendís house; or his wife, servant, ox, donkey, or anything that belongs to your friend. Or in simple English, donít desire his beautiful home, stunning wife, super-efficient P.A., nifty sports car or anything else that is his.

Itís one thing not to steal the stuff, but not even to desire it? Thatís got to be the hardest of all. Really now, is this not somewhat unreasonable? Is this realistic? Surely our Creator does not think we are angels!

Lets try to answer a question Ö with another question. (Donít we always?) Why does the text of this commandment first list a variety of specifics (house, wife, servant etc.) and then still find it necessary to add the generalization (and all that belongs to your neighbour)?  

One explanation is that it is to teach us a very important lesson for life; a lesson which actually makes this difficult commandment much easier to live with. What the Torah is saying is that if perchance you should cast your envious eye over your neighborís fence; donít only look at the specifics. Remember to also look at the overall picture.

Most people assume the grass to be greener on the other side. But we donít always consider the full picture, the whole package. So heís got a great business and a very healthy balance sheet. But is he healthy? Is his family healthy? The attractive wife looks great at his side when theyíre out together, but is she such a pleasure to live with at home? And if he should have health and wealth, does he have nachas from his children? Is there actually anybody who has it all?

Every now and then one is reminded of this lesson. A fellow who seemed to be on top of the world suddenly has the carpet pulled out from under his feet and in an instant is himself in need. Another guy who you never really thought that of highly, turns out to be a truly amazing father, raising the most fantastic children.

As the Yiddish proverb goes, everybody has his own pekkel. We each carry a knapsack through life, a parcel of problems, our own little bundle of tzorres. When you are young, you think difficulties are for ďother peopleĒ. When you get older you realize no one is really immune. Nobody has it all.

There is a famous folk story of a group of villagers who formed a circle and each individual opened his knapsack, revealing the contents for all to see. They walked around the circle of open parcels and everyone had the opportunity to choose whichever one he liked. In the end, each one chose Ö his own.

Itís more than just "better the devil you know". When we actually see with our own eyes what the other fellowís life is all about behind closed doors, whatís really inside his knapsack, we feel grateful for our own lot in life and happily choose our very own pekkel, with all its problems.

The Almighty is giving us good advice. Be wise enough to realize that youíve got to look at the whole picture. When we do, this difficult commandment becomes more easily observable. Not only is it sinful to envy what other people have; it is foolish. Life is a package deal.