OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY
As Mike is taking a stroll down the street, something in the middle of the boulevard catches his eye. He takes a closer look - it's green, rectangular in shape, and has a picture on it.
As Mike is taking a stroll down the street, something in the middle of the boulevard catches his eye. He takes a closer look - it's green, rectangular in shape, and has a picture on it. He can't believe his good fortune - a wad of genuine Ben Franklin's just lying there for the taking. He starts fantasizing about what he will do with a few thousand spare dollars. A down payment on that sports car he has been eyeing, a genuine Rolex gold watch, a vacation in the Bahamas - his imagination runs wild with all the desires that he might fulfill with this unexpected windfall.
With all these possibilities on his mind, he makes a quick dash for the loot, not fully cognizant of the heavy flow of traffic on the road. Suddenly he hears a loud honk and screeching breaks. He looks up in time to see a sixteen wheeler heading straight for him at full speed! Instantaneously, he forgets about the sports car, the watch, and the vacation. The panic and fear of the moment has totally removed from him any of his overpowering desires of but an instant ago.
The last of the Ten Commandments is "Lo Tachmod - do not covet." It is not difficult to comprehend the commandments that precede this one: Don't murder, commit adultery, steal, or testify falsely. These all relate to the realm of our actions vis-à-vis others. However, the commandment not to desire that which belongs to another individual seems very difficult to understand. How can the Torah obligate me not to want the possessions of others? When I see that someone has objects that I don't, a seemingly uncontrollable inner desire to possess them develops inside of me.
Based on Mike's experience with the sixteen wheeler, we can gain a better insight on how to rein in the emotion of coveting. Hashem created the nature of a human being so that fear, even a small amount of it, dispels any desire that a person may be experiencing at that moment. Once the Torah has prohibited coveting that which belongs to others, a person simply needs to be afraid of violating that prohibition, and the desire will vanish from him.
Try it next time you see your neighbor pulling out of his driveway with a 1997 luxury car, his becoming wife sitting next to him wearing a stunning diamond ring and the latest fashions from Paris.
Based on the commentary of the Beis Halevi, one of the most brilliant Torah scholars of the 19th century.
Rabbi Ariel Asa is an educator at Torah Day School of Atlanta and a practicing mohel.
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