By Dr. Michael Kagan
In every story everybody is jealous of somebody else. In the case of Cain and Abel it is God that initiates the fatal jealousy by favouring one sacrifice over the other. And this pattern repeats itself either through Divine intervention (closing the wombs) or through parental favouritism. There’s even a fable (midrash) that extends this emotional response back to the creation of the sun and moon where the moon complains about not being the supreme ruler in response to which God makes the sun larger!
Favoritism creates in the favoured one a sense of pride leading to arrogance and in the unfavoured one a sense of inadequacy leading to hatred (see Rachel and Leah, Jacob and Esau). Is this indeed the motivating emotion that drives human behaviour? Is this what Torah is here to correct or promote or to challenge us with?
My teacher Rabbi Nechemia Polin pointed out that the tikun (fixing) for the family dysfunctionality caused by jealousy ends with Moses and Aaron. Here the younger is the favoured one but Aaron shows no sign of jealousy. In fact the two brothers seem to get along very well. For Rav Nechemia the goal is summarized in the verse: “How good is it in my eyes that siblings are sitting also together. ”
As you know I was recently in Copenhagen for the Climate Change talks and it seems to me that a main block to progress towards an agreement that might reduce greenhouse emissions is the jealousy of the less industrialized nations towards the more industrialized nations (using the language ‘developed’ and ‘undeveloped’ seems to be a continuation of the deadly cycle). “Why can’t we have the opportunity to be like you?” they cry. “Because we are superior/better/privileged/luckier/more blessed than you.” comes the answer.
Is that how it works?
Have a good week,