Toldot – Jealousy is Counterproductive

Toldot – Jealousy is Counterproductive

Our Rabbis of Blessed Memory have told us that Jealousy causes a person to cease existing. (Avot 4-21)

This is demonstrated in our Perasha. We find Yitzchak Avinu following in the footsteps of his Father Avraham. Avraham Avinu had dug many wells in the Negev Desert which has little water resources. He gave these wells names which reminded people of the existence of G-d. He gave the water to anyone. Those who needed to drink from the wells were informed about G-d.

Yitzchak Avinu was very successful. It annoyed the Palestinians that this G-d fearing man was so successful. They wished that he was poor and idolatrous like they were. Although the Palestinians could drink freely from the water, After Avraham Avinu passed on, they chose to fill the wells with sand. (Bereshit 26-14) This back breaking effort was done out of jealousy for the goodness which G-d gave the Avot. They did not want Yitzchak to have any success whether even if this success helped them.

Jealousy causes hatred and is very self defeating. Our Rabbis have discussed the pitfalls of jealousy at length.

This is demonstrated in our Perasha. Avimelech was the ruler of the Palestinians. He had his men pick fights with Yitzchak’s shepherds. They despised Yitzchak so much and hoped that he would move away. Since Yitzchak did not get the message Avimelech told him that he should move away.

After moving Yitzchak was still very successful. The Palestinians realized that they could not continue to expend efforts filling his wells. So they went to make a treaty with Yitzchak. When he saw them Yitzchak asked them, “Why did you come to me? and you hated me and had me expelled.”  (bereshit 26-27)

Additionally, it is written in the book of Mishle:

A sound heart is the life of flesh, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones. (14-30)

The first half of the pasuk tells us that it is very healthy to be easy going. When you hear that something good happens to someone you should be happy. However, if you are upset that goodness has happened to others this causes you to sicken yourself and your bones will rot.


Our Rabbis (Magen Avot, Doron, on Avot 4-21 and Orchot Tzidikim Shaar Hakinah)  have told us a story to illustrate the dangers of jealousy. I have also heard different versions of this as a popular joke.

A jealous person and desirous person were walking on the road when they happened upon the king. The king told them that one of them could ask for a wish which would be granted to him and double would be granted to the other. The jealous person did not want to ask for anything because he would then see his pal get twice as much. Since the desirous person really wanted a lot he convinced the jealous person to ask for a wish. The jealous person asked for one of his eyes to be poked out. This left his friend totally blinded.

Jealousy can also happen under seemingly positive circumstances. If a student is particularly smart his friends might wish that he was stupid like them. However, many see the the intelligence of the gifted and strive to be like them. However, this too can be dangerous. One should study torah for its own sake and for thirst of knowledge.