Andy Blumenthal
Leadership With Heart

Jealous Over Nothing

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In materialistic cultures around the world, it is all too easy to get greedy and caught up in the drive for big, fancy things: houses, cars, jewelry, clothing, and even yachts and planes for the mega-wealthy.

Our eyes see, and our hearts want.

And hence, we read in the Shema Yisrael multiple times a day:

Take care lest your heart be lured away and you turn astray and worship alien gods and bow down to them.

Maybe that is why we are commanded to put on tefillin precisely on our foreheads, right above our eyes, and on our left arm, next to and facing our heart, as a reminder not to be led astray by the lure of what we see and the emptiness of what we desire.

As experts typically advise about achieving happiness in life, it’s never about how much money and things you have amassed; it’s always about the loving, caring relationships you develop and the meaningful good you do in the world.

Yes, a foundational amount of money is important for caring for ourselves and our families, and whether that is $75,000, $200,000, or more a year, beyond a core amount for our basic physiological needs, the satisfaction gained then quickly levels off.

Yet, how many of us look at our neighbors, colleagues, and friends and compare ourselves in terms of who has the bigger, nicer house, the fancier car, the more extravagant vacations, etc., and then feel bad that the other guy somehow has more or has it better than us?

Yet, as my dad used to tell me:

If you knew what their problems were and what went on inside their homes behind closed doors, you wouldn’t want to change places with them for even an instant!

Yes, gold shines, and pretty things can make us salivate, but the truth is that there are plenty of people with a lot of money and possessions who are very unhappy and unsatisfied with their lives. Who knows, but I would venture to guess that many wealthy people are, in a sense, even more unhappy than others because they see the frivolousness and meaninglessness of all the materialism. In other words, they achieved their goals for success and “made it,” but they find no real meaning or happiness in it.

Recently, I had the chance to visit someone’s big, fancy mansion in a really nice neighborhood, and going there, I wondered to myself whether I would feel angry, resentful, or jealous. Why do they have all that and I don’t?

But the funny thing was that after I saw it, and it was really nice, and I was truly happy for them, I didn’t feel jealous.

I thought to myself. It’s a house. What can you do in it except live there? And what could they do in their house that, frankly, I couldn’t do in my own humbler abode?

I remembered the Jewish saying:

Many possessions, many worries

And I thought, You know, there is a lot of truth to that. Everything in that mansion needs to be immaculately maintained and cared for. There is time, effort, and money involved in all of it. I wondered, “Is it even worth it?”

The other thing that happened around the exact same time as seeing this mansion was that I had an accident, fell, and got hurt. I needed to go to urgent care and the hospital’s emergency room. I was in pain and also nervous about what damage I might have and what would happen. In those moments, I thought to myself:

What difference does it make how much money a person has? If you don’t have your health and your loved ones, you don’t have anything!

Sure, money is nice to live it up a little once in a while, but you and your loved ones’ long-term health and spiritual wellbeing are forever invaluable, while “good looks fade” and “you can’t take the money with you when you die.”

Again, around the same time, I heard from another couple in synagogue how their son in his early 20s told them recently that he bought a Powerball lottery ticket. And guess what? He had five of the numbers, all of them except the Powerball number, so he threw the ticket away! The parents, realizing that it was a million-dollar winning ticket, were frantic and dove into the garbage to try to find it, but alas, it was already too late; the ticket was gone, and with it, a million-dollar win!

This is a true story, and it reminded me of the Bitcoin multi-millionaires who somehow manage to lose their password to their crypto vault and can’t retrieve their vaunted cryptocurrency. Can you imagine how crazy they must go and to what ends of the earth they would travel and endeavor to try to recover the key to their beloved money?

Surely, I think we all know of people who, to achieve their earthly notions of success and materialistic goals, may “sell their souls to the devil” for the wealth, power, and fame they so crave. And in a sense, no vault in the world is safe enough to protect their precious riches.

However, whether it’s stocks, mansions, lottery tickets, bitcoins, or other worldly objects that we put our hopes and dreams into, at the end of the day, the reality is that they are all nothing compared to what is really important and meaningful:

  • The precious time we have with our loved ones
  • Selflessly caring for and giving to others
  • Living faithful, holy lives in the eyes of the Almighty

These are the things that money can never buy, and they give true inner happiness that outer material trappings can never even aspire to.

About the Author
Andy Blumenthal is a dynamic, award-winning leader who writes frequently about Jewish life, culture, and security. All opinions are his own.
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