Pirkei Avot says: “Jealousy and desire and honor remove man from the world” (Avot 4:28). The destructive aspects of these traits are acknowledged by all; however, what is meant by “remove from the world”?
Imagine a jealous individual who concludes a very profitable business deal. Without much toil, he adds large sums to already overflowing coffers. Then he hears of a friend who made an investment that resulted in greater returns than his own. The envious person fails to enjoy his success because someone else made an even bigger profit.
This individual may own beautiful homes and luxury cars. He may possess designer clothing and much more money that he will ever need. His wife may be wonderful and his children a source of pride. But a heart filled with envy leaves no room for joy or satisfaction. His envy makes what he has seem non-existent — removed from the world.
Someone who craves honor has no peace, because no amount of praise or level of position satisfies his thirst for respect and acknowledgment from others. If someone else is the recipient of even a small amount of prestige, this honor-seeker feels miserable. His insatiable need for esteem makes him feel as if he has none at all. His honor exists somewhere out of this world, but here and now he feels starved for respect.
Desire that grows whenever something is acquired is tantamount to drinking salt water when thirsty. The more one has, the more one wants. Satisfying the current craving merely creates a real need for more. Again, what he has is out of this world. Following his jealousy, desire, and need for honor, he too is out of this world.
One More Second: Another Thought For the Day
“And one of the pillars upon which the world stands is truth” (Avot 1:18). If so, one who speaks untruths is as if he removed the foundation of the world. And the opposite of this — one who is careful to speak the truth is as if he maintains the foundation of the world. … (Sanhedrin 97a): “In that place where they were careful to speak the truth, the Angel of Death held no sway there.”(Mesillat Yesharim, Chapter 11)
Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He lectures to audiences all over the world. He has distributed over 500,000 recorded lessons free of charge. He is author of the book 1 Minute With Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement, Sephardic Press, 2008.