Being last is never good. Being last means you tend to get overshadowed, understated, and well – forgotten. Although everyone else before you is being made a big deal of: “Oh my God! Number 1?! Hello! You are super important right now!” – and descendingly less to Numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9… and then, finally, we reach number 10 which everyone forgets.
Poor number 10.
So what are we talking about here? The Duggar’s 10th baby? (They had 19 – so that situation is even more complicated and disturbing than this example has the capacity to address at this current juncture. No – we’re talking about that oft-forgotten, oft-shrugged off, oft-“meh…” mitzvah:
“Thou shalt not not covet anything that belongs to thy neighbor”. Or as it’s more succinctly put in the עשרת הדברות – the Decalogue, or the Ten Pronouncements G-d made atop Har Sinai all those thousands of years ago, as He gave His Torah to use. A Torah we’ve come to love, a Torah which has come to define our peoplehood, a Torah of compassion and love, indicating a loving, personal G-d who does not send us to hell for transgressions while we’re here on earth.’
Hebrew, the tenth and final commandment states: לא תחמד, Thou shalt not covet – in the very concise way Hebrew does it’s thing.
Thou shalt not covet. Not thy neighbor’s stuff, thy friends stuff, thy mom’s new blue jeans, thy dad’s new car, thy uncle’s new Zara shirt (which you know would look so much better on you!)
Thou shalt not… covet.
This mitzvah is no less important than honor thy mother and father, nor is it less severe in it’s direction to remember the Shabbat and keep it holy.
But in light of the newly fangled response of “OMG! So jelly!” it seems like this commandment has been all but forgotten.
Why is this?
The tenth commandment is not the easiest of the mitzvot laid out in the Aseret ha-Dibrot. It is the only mitzvah which speaks specifically to an internal impulse which must somehow be subdued. But, as time as passed, over the centuries and millennia which comprise the giving of the Torah, we find that, in today’s heady world, the compulsion to covet has become a normal part of every day life.
I, too, am guilty of this. My friend has a new significant other? I’m happy – but I want one, too, please! My aunt buys a new house? I’m happy for her – but I want one, too, please! In all our stringent following of the mitzvot, particularly those mitzvot in the Ten Commandments, we as a world – Jews, and non-Jews alike – completely and utterly ignore this utterly important (though overshadowed) mitzvah.
Why is this so? The tenth mitzvah differs from the others because it doesn’t deal with outward expressions of faith and emuna. Rather, it deals with an internal struggle, and HaShem told us: “stop being jealous bitches.” No where in life and time has the necessity for this mitzvah to make a glorious comeback than in the right here and now, when everyone is “jelly/jellzies/jelling” about something that someone else has (bf, gf, house, clothes, car, restaurant, lifestyle, money, Apple Watch).
How easy it is to ignore the inner compulsion of covetousness and just be jealous. So simple it is to forget everyday, when we allow our yetzer ha-Ra to take the better of us that we’re breaking, re-breaking and just always breaking this most important tenth mitzvah.
The world of capitalism has been the most impactful on this, the final Commandment. Many people say “oh that’s the unattainable commandment because there’s so much stuff that constitute life in the 2000’s”, Actually – no. It’s not impossible – it’s just… more difficult to control your internal urges to not feel jealousy and particularly covetous, especially in our current cultural climate (yes – I mean, just look at China having becoming pseudo capitalist – the traditional society has given place to what basically looks like any Western mall of mom’s, daughter’s, son’s and dad’s thronging to find the latest gadgets, regardless of how much they have to spend. Girl’s lining up for Mono Blahniks. Is she buying this because of the workmanship of the shoe? Or is she buying it as a quality-status symbol? Not just that girl. Me. Why am I buying Zara? Because I saw it fit someone with my body type perfectly, and I – admittedly – coveted what tat passerby perfectly and so I’ve been on a rampage for the past ten years when it comes to buying Zara. Also I can say that the quality of their clothes has significantly decreased).
Covetousness has not been eradicated, in fact, in our times, it’s become even worse – these are the most challenging times for this, the last of the mitzvot.
How do we re-channel ourselves into not being covetous? We need to pull away from the dizzying white lights of life: your friend’s better half (who you thought was cute), your friends happiness (which you are happy for outwardly, but secretly wish it could happen to you as well: his job promotion, her new house, his new baby, her new car – you need to find it in yourself to be grateful and genuinely happy for these wonderful blessings to others and not let it impact your own yetzer haRa.
There is no magic trick to this – but something I’ve found is this: be grateful. Be thankful. Be so unbelievably happy with that which you were given and direct your gratitude to the person who gives it to you, but direct thanks to haShem for sending you this bracha.
In all things we do in the modern age, we must be always cognisant that we have a well-defined set of rules which govern our morality as Jews – I’m not even talking about what’s in the Shulchan Aruch, I’m talking, merely and only, about the Ten Commandments. This isn’t just G-d’s Words to us – it’s an adoptive attempt to emulate the Creator Who doesn’t covet the things we have. In our mortal, limited lives, our purpose is to discern the Divine in everything and attempt – futilely, often – to match up to it.
So time to stop jelling. Time to be happy for when others move up the lifecycle ladder, despite the fact that we are sprawled out in the mud at the bottom of the ladder.
For far too long the final commandment has been sadly ignored. Hate comes from the ignoring of this commandment. The Arabs hate that Israel – against all odds – set up a state for themselves, educated their population and formed the Start-up Nation, they hate that Israel can bring forth flowers and fruits and vegetables with little water. This is what covetousness causes: hate. I want what you have – I’m jealous of you. I hate you. The steps between the two are very short, and they increase in terms of intensity of feeling as they progress, culminating in red eye, all consuming hate. On Personal, Community, and Regional and Worldwide level., hate happens. jealousy happens. Do we want hate? Do we want the Arabs to continue to covet what we have: a land they desperately want as their own, yet, they’re awed by the great investments which have gone into Israel making it a worldwide masterpiece? On a personal level: do we want a situation of fighting with friends because you’re JELLY?
The tenth commandment needs its due. And the day has come. Let’s just stop.
Say No to jealously. No to covetousness. No to wanting what isn’t yours.
Say Yes to being happy for others – and not letting jealousy inside get the better of you. Say Yes to jumping for joy when you hear they’ve made a new house, gotten married, found the love of their lives, booked a worldwide cruise.
This is how we honor the last commandment.
Let’s do it together and end this puerile and base response of “Oh my G-d! I am so jelly!
(Although, my dad did just buy a new iPhone 6+ – I’m a little jelly. Maybe he’ll buy me one too and we’ll curb that jellyness at the bud )