Kenneth Cohen

Do Not Arouse Jealousy

The Gemara in Masechet Taanit, tells us that when the famine began, Yakov gave very specific instructions to his family. These instructions apply to all of the Jewish people at all times.

At that point in time, the family still had a good quantity of food. Yakov said to his sons that it was important that they should not show themselves as being satiated; especially in front of Yishmael and Eisav. They must take great caution, so as not to arouse their jealousy.

We must constantly be aware of this reality, that the nations of the world, have always been envious of the Jewish people.

They do not need a reason to find fault in us, as this is not rational in any way. It is one of the explanations as to why there is antisemitism in the world, but it is not the only reason.

We have witnessed over the last two months how the veil has been lifted, in so many instances. The reaction to the Simchat Torah atrocities, makes it abundantly clear, who is with us and who is not.

It is very simple to see. Anyone who says that the events of that day were horrible, and then follows this acknowledgement, with the word, “but,” is not with us. He is either an anti-Semite, or highly ignorant, or both.

Yakov Avinu understood what his descendants were going to face over the generations. He was telling his family that they shouldn’t make matters worse by doing things to arouse even more jealousy. We should not flaunt our wealth or success, and make them hate us even more.

The best path to take is one of modesty in all situations. We must realize that aside from the Gentile world not being happy to see Israel or the Jewish people successful, this may also be true of our peers and family.

We should be careful with whom we share our good news. Not everyone is going to be happy for us. This is the reality taught in the Gemara in Taanit. Be modest and do not arouse the jealousy of Eisav and Yishmael. And be modest, and try not to arouse anyone’s jealousy.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at